Corhort 4 Teams Formed around Vanguard Challenges

Today our students agreed on two of the Vanguard challenges from last week as their focus areas. We started, however, by going over the key themes of the 10×10 brief photos which students brought in from during the week.

These photos showed lots of architecture and green spaces in the city, which could be used for good, while also showing some bad design choices too, which caused problems. All of these fed into the ideas for the chosen challenges. It was also noted that none of the photos showed people, or events.

The challenges carried forward were:

  1. How do we make Aberdeen a ‘cool’ place for residents, students and visitors?
  2. What will it take to make the people of the area fall back in love with Union Street?

From this three teams focused on aspects of the first idea about ‘cool Aberdeen’, while one team explored ideas around improving Union Street. These challenges each team decided to use were:

  1. How might we improve making Union Street into a more desirable place, by creating spaces for activities for all, with good lighting and easy access points?
  2. How might we use renewable lighting to encourage community engagement, while promoting Aberdeen’s reputation a a progressive thinking city?
  3. How might we transform an area into a thriving social zone with art, street food and music, where students and residents can mix?
  4. How might we create a ‘living room’ for student societies of both universities to offer public events and entertainment?

These will be interesting projects to encourage and develop over the term, and to see how they mix and mingle themselves given they overlap and feed on one another to some extent.


CityLab mentioned in Sunday Times article on wifi benches

The Sunday Times of 1 October, 2017 mentioned CityLab as the source of an idea to put in wifi enabled Soofa park benches in Aberdeen City centre. They also mentioned the Tuk In and Next Step energy projects too. The article went on to discuss how the programme is perceived by the city councillors, and how it works with ‘the city as the classroom’ to develop a better Aberdeen.

UPDATE 11 October

The story has now been picked up by other news groups too, and Jon has been asked for comment about the benches on BBC radio too.

Evening Express 

RGU news

Scottish Daily Mail



Cohort 4 Kick Off

All of the students from both universities met today at the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce offices. We have about ten students from both institutions, which is always our goal. Shifting from Wednesday mornings to Wednesday afternoons seems to have made this possible.

We did the usual ‘meet and greet’ type of game to mingle the students and let them know one another better before introducing ourselves and what CityLab is all about. It was good to hear students saying that they wanted to work with other students as a group and gain experience ‘doing’ things. It’s also always amazing to hear the diversity of backgrounds of disciplines as well as home countries of the students.


This term we also using the Vanguard Challenges adopted by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce as our starting point for the student challenges for the ideation phase next week. We spent a long time discussing them in general before asking  for a ‘dot vote’ of them by the students. Each student had ‘three dots’ to use across the eight challenges.

  1. What will it take to get this region on the map as a serious European short break destination and what iconic attraction would help us to achieve this?
  2. How could a world class events programme in the region drive in-bound tourism as well as making this an even better place to live and what might this look like?
  3. How do we make sure we retain graduates and our very best talent in the North-east?
  4. What would be required to make sure any future capital/city of culture bid was successful?
  5. How do we make Aberdeen a ‘cool’ place for residents, students and visitors?
  6. The North-east is already Scotland’s capital for food and drink production; how do we bring this to life for local consumers and visitors?
  7. What will it take to make the people of the area fall back in love with Union Street?
  8. How can we build on the success of Buy North-east to promote a culture of local procurement?

The votes ended up as follows:

  1. votes: 4
  2. votes: 3
  3. votes: 6
  4. votes: 5
  5. votes: 16
  6. votes: 6
  7. votes: 9
  8. votes: 1

This was a ‘gauging interest’ vote, so we’ll see what happens next week when we dig into the top challenges next week and thus focus on the specific challenges of each team. If we end up with the ‘cool Aberdeen’ and ‘make Union Street great again’ as the top two there is still much that could happen within each of these areas. It is this variety of potential challenges, which makes the CityLab programme so exciting.