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The fourth International STEAM Conference 2023 welcomed delegates from 9 countries on 3 continents to BCU who were able to reflect on the invaluable insights and learning from a packed programme over two days. Delegates heard how to harness the power of STEAM to create opportunities for inter and trans-disciplinary research and to explore new ways of thinking to help reshape our world for the better. The diverse array of topics, speakers, and collaborative projects at the conference embodied the essence of STEAM and showed how it could be applied to inspire and demonstrate real life impact. 

The first keynote speaker was Georg Russegger, Project Director at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. He explored the transition from STEM to STEAM telling delegates that artistic thinking, research and practice were central to academic, economic and business success. However, he warned delegates to not just to exist in their ivory research towers but to respond to the way society is changing and embrace global challenges from climate change to war. STEAM provides a different way of looking at challenges, he told delegates, and shows how the social sciences and humanities fit within a broader worldview, creating a lifelong learning circle.  

The second keynote speaker was Dr. Jaideep Gupte, Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation at the arts and Humanities Council. His address illustrated the power of a STEAM approach by myth busting. Delegates learned that STEAM can facilitate new forms of inquiry and that inclusion and diversity within research teams are vital to broaden our knowledge base. He told participants to avoid becoming siloed in existing models and to adopt radical ways of working. He then called on all delegates to take a crucial role in their regions, as enablers for local action plans, fostering international collaborations to further inclusion and diversity.  

Dr. Gupte encouraged delegates to leapfrog towards transformation and to alter their connection points; facilitate new relationships and drive change. His inspiring central message to them was failure is not a setback but a stepping stone, and taking a STEAM view opens up a journey of discovery. Making space for lived and felt experiences enhances our understanding of diversity, Dr Gupte, told delegates reminding them that innovation ecosystems need to have soul! 

The conference presenters speaking over the two days emphasised the transdisciplinary nature of STEAM. They advocated the importance of the creation of a safe space for collaboration and the building of trust in multi-disciplinary teams working on equal footing to embed a STEAM approach effectively.  BCU’s own STEAM fellows told delegates about the potential of natural materials to reduce carbon emissions in the design and manufacture of SMART homes. There were also presentations about combining the creative, medical, and technical disciplines in radiography; incorporating comedy and improvisation in the field of mental health and the many exciting uses of immersive environments and gaming, all projects designed to open delegates eyes to the creative and practical business applications of the future. 

Throughout the conference there was an emphasis on radical openness, learning through doing without judgment, critical making, and the power of artistic practice to interrogate AI. Delegates were reminded that the beauty of STEAM lies in its ability to transcend disciplinary boundaries, allowing research to view disciplines from fresh perspectives. 

In his closing remarks Clayton Shaw, Head of STEAMhouse, asked delegates to take these insights and learning with them beyond the conference. He asked them to apply the principles of STEAM in their work, research, and creative endeavours so they could:   

  • Actively seek out opportunities for collaboration, both within their own disciplines and across diverse fields.  
  • Build bridges between arts and sciences, technology and creativity using collaboration as a catalyst for innovative breakthroughs. 
  • Recognise the value of diverse perspectives and lived experiences to drive innovation and positive change.  
  • Be open to new ideas and the unconventional, recognising experimentation and even failure are often the stepping stones to ground-breaking discoveries. 
  • Maintain their curiosity and enthusiasm for life-long learning and exploration.  
  • Be Agents of Change; embracing the principles of STEAM in their work while keeping it soulful!