Aims and Scope

For the past decade, there have been many proposals by HCI, Ubicomp and computer supported cooperative work researchers for systems and services to facilitate community and individual behaviors, leading towards a more sustainable society. Prototypes have addressed a range of domains including energy, transport and health and well-being. In many of these efforts, social networking and engagement with interactive services has been shown to be successful in helping people modify their behaviours in positive ways.

More recently, cheap and accessible physical computing and software platforms (such as those for developing mobile apps) have led to a vibrant and growing community of makers, hackers and activists who are creating tools and services for their own use. In this event, we are challenging researchers who have been active in social media research, physical computing, or sustainability studies to posit new forms of intervention. These should take advantage of the now widely available infrastructures and people who want to build and deploy services for their own homes, workplaces and communities.

At the end of the event, teams will present their work and a group of judges will award prize certificates.


The Research Council’s UK Digital Economy Theme is supporting research to rapidly realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy.

To achieve this we bring together a unique community of researchers (from diverse disciplines including social science, engineering, computer science, the arts and medical research) and users (people, business, government) to study, understand and find solutions to real problems.

The DE Theme has formed four “challenge areas” to describe the research we support: Communities and Culture; Sustainable Society; IT as a Utility; New Economic Models. This call focuses on Sustainable Society.

Further information is available at:

A Sustainable Society refers to one that takes into account the benefit of future generations of both the UK and the earth in its decision making processes through the protection and appropriate use of our economic, social and natural resources.

While the potential role that ICT can play has long been touted in the commercial sector, true interdisciplinary research covering the multitude of aspects involved in economically, socially and environmentally viable solutions for society is sparse. Some pockets of evidence exist that indicate the potential impact for ICT to have on sustainability; these remain pockets, however, and there is a need to ensure the continued collaboration around these important topics. At the same time, digital technologies are in the process of tearing down traditional barriers between sectors, and the mobile and cloud computing platforms may be viewed as forming the “nexus of contracts” of the global economy. The role that these platforms play has a distinct role in the development of sustainable regions and nations as new communities, businesses and structures of government are formed in response to the incredible rise in data streams. For example, the vision of responsive and agile local services was traditionally hampered by a shortage of information. Today, the problem is opposite – information overload.

Research into the role of ICT in supporting the development of a sustainable society covers an extremely large number of research areas, from water, waste, energy, local and national transport infrastructures, national and international supply chains, rural and urban enterprise infrastructures, community development and social infrastructure support mechanisms. The systems that form the basis of our society are now extremely complex systems, with multiple layers and multiple interactions between the economic, social and environmental spheres – it is not possible to affect one without affecting the others.

Research is required to understand the nature of these interactions and how to best deliver services within them. In such complicated systems, it is extremely difficult for academics working in these areas to know the right people in other research groups and areas. Often, researchers have to bypass opportunities to apply for research grants because they do not have the right research partners, be they academic, industrial or third sector/NGO. As a result, opportunities to address policy and research challenges within Digital Economy are missed.

Sustainable Society Network+ aims to change the landscape of connections between research communities in order to create a vibrant network of researchers who take not just a Digital Economy approach back to their home disciplines, but a Sustainable Society approach as well. We aim to seed a grassroots movement across Britain of researchers who naturally approach research questions from an economic, social and environmental perspective, with a particular focus on creating links between current researchers and the next generation of researchers.