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Our collaboration with Tokyo Tech

This is a transnational and transdisciplinary collaboration in which we explore methods and mindsets of the disciplines through complementary expertise across our institutions. We engage in exploratory, experiential and experimental activities, testing and refining hybrid methodologies across art and design (UAL) and science and technology (Tokyo Tech). These have included a joint symposium on the nature of the experiment; vision-building workshops; hackathons; a colloquium on transdisciplinarity; mutual visits and network-building activities; and regular residencies for designers, theorists, scientists and artists.

STADHI Team at Central Saint Martins

  • Dr Betti Marenko
    WRHI Professor, Nohara Lab

    Betti is a transdisciplinary theorist working across philosophy, design and technology and collaborating with the Nohara Lab. She is interested in how futures are interrogated, imagined and crafted especially in relation to techno-digital discourses. Her contribution focuses on the development of insights, strategies and methodologies to support highly transversal speculative-pragmatic interventions.

  • Heather Barnett
    WRHI Professor, Hara Lab

    Working with the Hara Lab, Heather is developing novel interdisciplinary collaborative practices and fostering discussions around science and technology and art and design hybrid innovation and speculative design. She is particularly interested in how we observe, influence and understand self-assemblies, networks, systems and ecologies, and the underlying principles of emergence in natural and cultural systems.

  • Nathan Cohen
    WRHI Professor, Nakamoto Lab

    Artist, educator, curator and writer collaborating with the Nakamoto Lab to explore ways to interpret narratives combining olfaction and visual stimuli through digital olfactory display technology. Nathan is also investigating the olfactory effects on wellbeing for users of public transportation with the Hanaoka Laboratory and Nohara Laboratory.

  • Dr Ulrike Oberlack
    WRHI Professor, Nohara Lab

    Ulli’s research interests focus on light and the body: How light mediates our experience and understanding of ourselves in relationship to our environments and to others, and how wearable light changes the agency of the wearer. Potential applications include health, wellbeing and personal safety. She is interested in collaboration with researchers and practitioners from science and technology to choreography, performance and lens-based media to develop innovative methods to facilitate these collaborations.

  • Dr Tuukka Toivonen
    Course Leader, MA Innovation Management

    Tukka is an entrepreneurial academic specialising in creative processes with a collective dimension (research and teaching) and creative community strategy (consulting and impact).

Partnership: Development and Operations

Dr Jo Wheeler, Head of International Partnerships
Rachel Dickson, Dean of Academic Programmes and Chair, UAL Japan Regional Strategy Group 
Rebecca Wright, Dean of Academic Programmes (Collaboration)

STADHI team at Tokyo Tech

Visit the STADHI website at Tokyo Tech.

Our collaboration in detail – current and past initiatives

2021-22: Hybrid Innovation programme

Hands pointing at a diagram

Can hybrid methodologies be used to catalyse innovation? The Hybrid Innovation programme is the next exciting phase of our collaboration: co-designed by faculty from both institutions, this new programme is tailored to engage industry partners and the third sector through activities, talks and workshops that connect science, technology, art and design. The aim of the Hybrid Innovation programme is to establish a culture and a methodology for transforming ideas and frameworks. Participants will gain transcultural insights for planning and executing strategies to create unique innovation within their companies. Scheduled to launch in Autumn 2021, the Hybrid Innovation programme sees STADHI extending its reach into Knowledge Exchange.

2021: Hybrid Futures online course

Brain and microchip

Hybrid Futures: Designing for Uncertainty, Speculating on the Post-Anthropocene is a course run by Dr Marenko (online) for postgraduate and doctoral students. Drawing on process philosophy, design theory and critical technology studies, this course examines design’s role in imagining the post-Anthropocene. It uses the human, the post-human and the non-human to unpack the encounter human-machines across a number of contexts (historical, cultural, material-semiotic, techno-digital, animistic, in interaction design) and to question assumptions around technology’s role and value. The aim is to build a toolkit of ideas, discourses and methods to reflect critically on technologies; to cultivate anticipatory skills; and to craft hybrid future scenarios by speculative-pragmatic design interventions.

2021: STADHI official launch

Hands pointing at a diagram

The opening ceremony for the research initiative STADHI ‘Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation’ was held on 26 February 2021 at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Representatives from UAL joined remotely from London to celebrate this achievement which consolidates our institutional long-term collaboration. STADHI is one of the four prestigious WRHI Satellite Labs established to facilitate transdisciplinary exchange between the world’s top researchers and enable high-impact research outcomes. STADHI is led by Prof. Kayoko Nohara. In attendance were also Prof. Nakai, Dean of the School of Environment and Society at Tokyo Tech Prof Watanabe, Executive Vice President for Research at Tokyo Tech, and Rachel Dickson, Dean of Academic Programmes at Central Saint Martins.

Visit the Tokyo Tech website to find out more

2019-20: Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative visits

Hands working with Lego

During her visit to Tokyo Tech, Dr Marenko gave a keynote lecture at the The Future of Mobility symposium (December 2019), as part of the research project Cities and Social Infrastructure for 100-year Lives run by School of Environment and Society at Tokyo Tech in collaboration with leading industry partners. Her talk outlined the benefits of a transdisciplinary approach to re-imagining future mobility and urban living. She also undertook research for her article Stacking Complexities Reframing Uncertainty through Hybrid Literacies [PDF, 454KB]. Together with Prof Nohara and Dr Oberlack, Dr Marenko co-designed and run the taster workshop Hybrid Innovation for industry partners, experts and corporate representatives, showcasing the role of hybrid methodologies in knowledge exchange between academic, industry and third sector.

2019: Hacking Hearts (SiR)

An illustration of teeth, a heart and two people

A project of translations and transformations between cardiovascular science and art and design practice. Hacking Hearts reimagined cutting-edge scientific research centred on heart disease, energy harvesting and cellular sensing, as seen from art and design perspectives. Researchers and scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Queen Mary University of London collaborated with the College’s staff and students, offering their research to be hacked by postgraduate students. Following a week of trans-disciplinary experimentation, the public were invited to interrogate and explore what happens when artists and designers hack scientific research.

2019: MOU signed between our institutions

Smiling senior staff

Signalling an important milestone in the collaboration between our institutions, a three-year Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Tokyo on the 15 May 2019 between Central Saint Martins, UAL and three schools at Tokyo Institute of Technology: the School of Engineering, School of Materials and Chemical Technology and School of Environment and Society. The MOU officially formalised our partnership, promoting collaboration in academic research and education; fostering staff and student mobility; and enabling university-industry enterprise. Attending the signing ceremony were Tokyo Tech President Kazuya Masu and the Head of Central Saint Martins Professor Jeremy Till, as well as numerous representatives from both institutions.

Visit the Tokyo Tech website to find out more

2019: Becoming Hybrid colloquium

People in a meeting room

Coinciding with the MOU signing, a colloquium was held at Tokyo Tech to celebrate the collaborative activities that had taken place between the two institutions since May 2017. The colloquium introduced a range of hybrid methods during a Vision-building workshop run with the remote participation of CSM faculty. The colloquium succeeded in creating a platform for conversation and exchange concerning the shape of our future collaboration underpinned by a strong ethos of transdisciplinarity, and was the ideal platform for the official launch of the co-authored report Becoming Hybrid – Transdisciplinarity at the Crossover of Science and Technology and Art and Design [PDF, in English and Japanese, 6.5MB]. The first of its kind at Tokyo Tech, the Becoming Hybrid colloquium was organised and chaired by Dr Marenko and Dr Oberlack together with Prof Nohara.

2019: Becoming Hybrid workshop

Fisheye view of workshop from above

In March 2019, Central Saint Martins hosted a joint seminar involving Prof. Nohara and CSM and Tokyo Institute of Technology visiting postgraduate students which explored ideas of hybridity in research and practice. The event explored the impact of technology and science on society, and how sharing methods and perspectives across art & design and science & technology could lead to innovative approaches to current global challenges. Subject specialists from the fields of transdisciplinary science, mechanical engineering, design engineering, narrative environments, material futures, industrial design, jewellery, ceramics and furniture design, and artists working at the crossover of science and art took part in the seminar. The short film below documents the process and outcomes.

2018-19: Tokyo Tech WRHI visit

Three LEDs inserted into a board

Betti Marenko’s activity during her visit (Jan-Feb 2019) focused on research, teaching and network-building. She ran an accredited course for postgraduate students drawing on her work at the intersection of Western philosophy and design studies to interrogate ideas around technology. Continuing her collaboration with Nohara Lab she further developed her transdisciplinarity research to underpin future strategies work across technology, design and the humanities. Ulrike Oberlack’s research programme (Nov-Dec 2018) focused on a research experiment in which hybrid methods revolving around visual engagement and material thinking were developed and tested.

World Research Hub Initiative

Two people shaking hands and smiling

The World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI) was established at Tokyo tech in 2016 with the purpose to accelerate Tokyo Tech global collaborative research. By inviting leading researchers from abroad and encouraging intercultural and transdisciplinary collaboration, WRHI aims to foster the creation of new research hubs, address global challenges and be the research engine behind innovation. WRHI supports four distinct hubs: Information and Artificial Intelligence, Cell Biology, Materials and Devices and Social Implementation. Furthermore, WRHI supports dedicated research groups actively conducting impactful international collaborative research and drawn from the four research hubs ('WRHI Satellite Labs' – one of which is STADHI).

2018: Existential Wearables public event

A lecturer speaking into a microphone in front of a slide on a screen

The ‘Existential Wearables’ public event (or Biotechnology Fashion) showcased the outcomes of the 2-year collaborative project ‘Existential Wearables’ merging art and design practices with science and technology research to speculate on the future of wearable technologies for young people in Tokyo and investigate their and their social implications.

Funded by Tokyo Arts Council, the event included presentations, discussions and demonstrations of the prototypes, as well as a ‘material bar’ for the audience to interact with. Extending ideas for future urban wearables beyond pure functionality into philosophical realms, the models and designs produced by the interdisciplinary teams offered a speculation of how wearable technology might facilitate future urban and social change, with prototypes reflecting concerns about environmental crisis, the search for personal space and the challenges of meaningful interpersonal communication.

2018: Existential Wearables hackathon

People talking next to a table with a laptop on it as well as cables and glowsticks

A core component of the Existential Wearables project, the Wearables hackathon took place at Tokyo Tech in July 2018. Designed and facilitated by Barnett and Oberlack, the Hackathon developed initial concepts into models and scenarios. Students and staff at Tokyo Tech and other institutions, plus members of the general public from a wide range of professional and cultural backgrounds, had devised and developed ideas in a series of ‘cafes’ and workshops that led to the Hackathon. The project has grown out of the CSM x Tokyo Tech Teaching Exchange, the programme of residencies throughout 2017/18 hosted by the Nohara Lab.

2017-18: Teaching residencies

Three peoople in profile looking at something and writing in notebooks

Over the course of 2017/18, Tokyo Tech hosted three visiting academics from Central Saint Martins at the Nohara Lab.The three members of staff selected were Ulrike Oberlack (MA Design: Ceramics, Furniture, Jewellery), Betti Marenko (BA Product and Industrial Design), and Heather Barnett (MA Art and Science).

Dr Oberlack’s teaching programme introduced students to her wearable light research, linking to Tokyo Tech’s Materials Research Hub through shared interests in flexible sensor, OLED and quantum dot technologies. Dr Marenko taught a four-week course for undergraduate and postgraduate students on the impact of technology on contemporary society, with the aim to encourage a critique of established notions of technology in the Anthropocene. Barnett ran a series of public events and workshops to share her research practice working with living systems spanning from thinking of the city as an organism to absurdist games exploring how a communication system could exist within the human body. Another priority for Barnett during this residency was to establish the collaborative Wearables Project.

2017: The Experiment


The conversation between the two institutions began with a one-day international symposium entitled The Experiment in May 2017 in Tokyo. The event opened with a provocation from the Head of Central Saints, Professor Jeremy Till:

"Normally science and art are seen as separate spheres, each with their own methods of working, thinking and doing… This is indeed how universities and school curricula are divided, with students identified as belonging to one tribe or another… As the global situation has become ever more complex and fluid, we need multiple and hybrid ways of thinking."

Taking “the experiment” as a way to discuss different approaches and perspectives, speakers from both institutions positioned their research, practice and strategies on the “experiments” they conduct on a regular basis in their respective fields.