Bridgette Engeler

Swinburne University's Smart Cities Research Institute

Senior Lecturer and researcher

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Tell us about yourself

I’m a pracademic working across entrepreneurship, innovation, strategic foresight, design and culture. I'm equally intrigued and frustrated by the proliferation of 'tech will save us' approaches, and not just because my PhD focuses the intersection of design and foresight and ways to bring futures literacy into design. What’s very interesting is post-growth transformation and the potential of futures-led innovation and prospective design to tackle the challenges ahead.

What are the top 3 trends in your transport/smart city niche that everyone should look out for in the next 5 years?

Trends are current so it’s important to remember that what’s happening today will change or disappear entirely in the next 5 years. Just because something is noticeable or recurrent or simply seems popular right now, doesn’t make it a trend, let alone one worth responding to. Electric scooters might work well in some places but not everywhere. Focusing on a trend can also lead to more short-termism overall, because we take our eyes off emerging issues and opportunities - which frequently leads to unforeseen problems and unintended consequences. We might get excited about autonomous vehicles, electric cars and flying motorcycles but what does that mean for pedestrians and cyclists? What about traffic systems? Where will the charging stations be built - and who will own or run them?

Drivers of change – the deeper phenomena to pay attention to – can be cultural, political, technological, economic, legal or environmental: things like energy cost and consumption, vehicle maintenance, data privacy and security, remote work, demand for and access to public transport, regional growth, climate crisis, insurance costs, finite natural resources, and reliable technology combine with changes in population age, attitudes and values as well as true need for smart technology and transportation. Any of these will have great implications in the short- and longer-term.


How do you/your company innovate?

Innovation requires creativity and demands us to be tolerant of risk and ambiguity. While the context for any innovation must be paramount, futures-focused innovation is definitely my preferred approach. One of the frequent challenges is being able to float between the short term, the micro and the meso, and the long-term and the macro – to innovate to meet the needs of people, planet and organisations now, with an eye on the long-term consequences and impact of those innovations for generations to come.


Why is encouraging innovation, new ideas, and tech important?

Innovation contributes to the creation of experiences, products and services that matter, things that are relevant and useful in everyday life. Imagine the world without innovation!?! Not all innovation is good or beneficial though, as it often reflects what’s buried deep within culture or embedded in organisational, regulatory or policy environments. But it can be a catalyst for deep level systems change and transformation. This is fundamental to tackling global challenges such as poverty and inequality or understanding our agency and sovereignty over technology.

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