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Media Innovation Studio

The Media Innovation Studio is a centre for world-class research and innovation in media with a commitment to enriching communities. It was established in 2012.

We work at the intersection between community engagement, storytelling, media technology and media management.
  • We break new ground: Our interdisciplinary, creative and collaborative culture creates value and shares new knowledge
  • We foster talent: We seek to connect and nurture talent through collaboration, courses and projects with forward-thinking individuals, organisations and networks locally and internationally. Our network spans industry, academy and community organisations globally.
  • We have an experimental project to product outlook: Our goal is to understand, exploit and commercialise the opportunities afforded by new digital technologies.
  • We enrich communities: We create impact at a community level through meaningful new opportunities and enriched life experiences. We work to impact on organisational change and drive policy change.
  • We are an international research studio for media innovation. We bring people together to rethink how information can enrich lives.
  • Our community includes researchers, community activists, policy makers, students, business people, academics, journalists, scientists, technologists and designers.
  • Our research delivers insight and innovation around the means and processes we use to share information: our technology and media.
  • It’s underpinned by a passionate belief that through innovative thinking we can achieve research excellence delivering real world impact and shaping policy.
  • Our relationships with both local communities and international industry partners help us to see the big picture.
  • Our studio at the University of Central Lancashire, UK is a home for world class creative, collaboration; a place to share skills, knowledge and experience across disciplines.
  • Together we create meaningful new opportunities and experiences for communities that disrupt, engage, entertain, inform, empower and create lasting change. We’re proud to be a part of those communities


For most of us community describes where we live and work. It’s the shared values and interests that come with a sense of place. But technology opens up the idea of what defines a community.

It connects people who share common interests and goals regardless of where they live.

Advances in virtual and augmented reality challenge the idea of place. They can transport us across the world to interact with others or even create new environments for communities to explore.

These new technologies dominate the discussion around media innovation. They promise new opportunities for creating social and economic value and what is innovation if it doesn’t create value.

But we can’t just assume there is always value in simply exploring new technology or that value benefits the right people.

Real innovation comes when we explore how everyone can benefit from the value we create. That means being open to collaboration and including people and communities in the process.

Our projects

Our projects span mobile and ubiquitous technology, the Internet of Things, proximity broadcasting, musicology, design thinking, 3D printing and more.

Some are new but others are the next step in projects that have grown and matured building a growing body of research to underpin our practice and highlight its impact. All of them have that commitment to community and collaboration at their core.

The work we do shows how the same commitment to disruptive design techniques, traditional social science and established practice-based methods, mixed with the creative application of technology, continues to be a catalyst for innovation and change for communities inside and outside of the academy.

Ultimately the Media Innovation Studio and our work is and always will be defined by people.

It’s not just the people in the studio who make the projects happen. It’s also the people from industry and across disciplines who collaborate with us sharing their skills, passion and insights in the spirit of open innovation.

We have strong links with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Global Alliance for Media Innovation, Google News Lab University Network, Trinity Mirror and many more.

The work of the Studio continues to be about exploring media innovation as a way connecting communities - real and virtual - from all over the world who share their passion and commitment through technology, music, art, journalism and storytelling.


  • Development of the "Insight Journalism" research methodology
  • Development of Proximity Insights news data methodology
  • Design Thinking
  • Creative Facilitation
  • Development of Citizen Media and Content Bureaus throughout Kenya
  • Exiled media and media in politically pressured environments
  • Global innovation lab community via our involvement with the Global Alliance for Media Innovation
  • Training and consultancy services to a range of media and publishing organisations, community groups and more
  • Bespoke
  • Speak Up Preston
  • Flying High Challenge
  • Wigan Steam
  • Harris Museum
  • New knowledge around hyperlocal lightweight distribution systems
  • Through the Interactive Newsprint project, development of a new platform for community news using cutting-edge printed electronics technology
  • Development of novel IoT objects and platforms for news
  • Policy impact through BBC select committee
  • Dissemination in local, national and international press
  • Flying High Challenge: forming drone policy and regulations

Expertise and subject areas

Some key examples of the studio’s research linked activities and expertise are provided below.

Blending community-centred storytelling and journalism's critical and investigative approach with the skill sets of designers, makers and builders, Insight Journalism offers a radical approach to design and service provision for communities.

The result is 'bespoke' design and service solutions that are both inspired and scrutinised by the communities involved. By fostering community action and innovation through storytelling and journalism, Insight Journalism moves beyond simply 'giving a community a voice'.

Instead, it seeks to inspire action as a result of the journalistic stories that are told, whether they be through audio, video, image or text (or a combination of all of these mediums).

A central aim is to connect communities to design and creative expertise, and produce innovative concepts and solutions specifically tailored to the storytelling communities. But the method does not simply end here.

An integral part of the approach is that journalistic activity continues after the designs or services are installed. As such Insight Journalism provides a critical reflection emanating from the community on whatever design, service or 'innovation' has been created.

This in turn constructs a revisioned 'fourth estate' between the communities and those who they partner with. The result is a design ecosystem where stories inform an iterative community-centred design approach that is relevant to the communities who participate.

Since its inception the Insight journalism method has been applied within a number of different research projects on India, the US and the UK.

The Media Innovation Studio – in partnership with the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences and it’s Engineering Innovation Centre - has secured substantial funding to power the Civic Drone Centre.

The centre brings together researchers, practitioners, industry and volunteer organisations to explore the potential for the use of unmanned vehicles for a range of real-world applications – from ‘drone journalism’ to underwater searches, pollution monitoring, aerial surveys and delivering medication to isolated communities.

The Civic Drone Centre’s Flying High Challenge project is supported by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Fund, and with Preston City Council as a partner, the five-month project will explore Preston-specific use cases for drone technology.

Engaging with local services, communities and industry, the project will create a range of recommendations that could be taken forward on both a local and national level.


Clare Cook and Dr Francois Nel’s expertise lies in the area of business models, entrepreneurship and innovation.

This includes the Submojour database of sustainable business models on the web and study on hyperlocal revenue models in UK and Europe.

Nel is a founder of the Digital Editors Network, UK, which is an academic-industry learning network for thought leaders and influencers that has been meeting since 2007.

He is the principal investigator of the world news publishers innovation study initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The annual study is conducted globally in 10 languages and underpins a variety of scholarly and industry outputs, including WAN-IFRA’s new. From 2018, he will also be editor of WAN-IFRA’s key World Press Trends report, which has benchmarked the industry since 1989.

With Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis of the University of Oxford, he is also a partner in the NestaWorld News Publishers OutlookInnovation Research Group.


The studio embarks on multi-layered research on a variety of media contexts supporting independent journalism. These media exist within politically pressured systems or are small exiled or oppositional news outlets which are atypical, surviving at the edges of the political system and the economy.

These can be described as politically pressured as a result either of the discouragement of specific media practices and developments by political authorities, or the forbidding and outright repression of the same.

The research has been filtered into a number of impact channels, ranging from the production of advisory reports and mapping studies, the provision of research-informed training programmes and action research, through to direct involvement in the setting up of local news connectivity systems in the pressured political context of Armenia.

CAST has pioneered novel WiFi systems as an alternative distribution service in remote areas revealing new knowledge about data insights and hyperlocal demonstrators.

Clare is also on the steering committee for the Independent Community News Network based from the University of Cardiff’s Centre for Community Journalism. Her work will feature in the impact case study for UoA34.


Our research interests span journalism, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented paper, mobile journalism, wearables, HCI, drone journalism and innovation theory.

In recent years John Mills’ research has focussed on how news organisations could utilise physical platforms and experiences.

Internet of Things (IoT) innovation can quickly spin out into digital ecosystems, app and service development, emergent business models or newsroom structure: digital-physical systems, smart cities, wearables, open source development and community engagement.

Projects include Glass Journalism, interactive paper clip EKKO, Rare Occurrence and a Google DNI funded NewsThings project.

Clare is an award-winning journalist with ten years’ experience in the print and magazine industry. She is passionate about innovative storytelling and social media for journalism.

She has also presented and taught around the world on journalism business models and startup sustainability.

John’s research activity includes the hyperlocal/digital design project Bespoke, which formulated the immersive community media methodology ‘Insight Journalism’, Interactive Newsprint – which is developing a new platform for community news using printed electronics.

He currently teaches multimedia journalism techniques and theory at UCLan. His other research interests have recently examined the potential for mobile platforms to facilitate professional and citizen journalism both within the UK and internationally.

He has an MA in 19th century Literature and Culture; specialising in representations of the self within a regenerative urban environment.

Professionally, John has established business-to-business editorial operations in Manchester and Leeds for online news agency Adfero, and managed large teams of online correspondents both in the UK and further afield.

John’s research interests lie around the internationalisation of higher education, working with overseas partners and Ministries of Higher Education to promote collaborative partnerships and research co-operation, with a focus on MENA and East Asia.

John continues to work with SHARE, the ‘European Union Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region’ and also speaks regularly on providing access to higher education for refugees and displaced young people. His role at UCLan involves mentoring colleagues to build a more structured and strategic approach to engaging with research and tendering activities.

Dr Mark Lochrie heads up a team exploring how blending analogue and digital materials are formed to create novel experiences with objects and people.

Derived from the initial work seen in DataMakers, Mark continues this manifesto of making things tangible by working across disciplines and sectors to emphasise, ideate, prototype and test for a range of applications, installations and services.

The DataMakers project explored ways of making the creation and use of data more accessible and most importantly real. Keen to seek new ways for individuals to be part of the process of collecting data and contributing in that decision making process. Mark’s portfolio of work ranges from project to project. Based on the collaborators involved.

From example, working with artists in Homing and Skip, Play, Repeat to journalists and designers in NewsThings, to cyclists and researchers with the Desire Lines project and filmmakers, researchers and communities in StoryLab 2.0.

Mark continues this work in other directions through nurturing new talent with the PhD and Internship programmes he leads.

Projects including; the Sound of Colour, Sycamore, Nudgeables, Shogi, Objects for Air and just a few that demonstrate the need for bringing people together through various analogue and digital experiences.

An award-winning investigative journalist, educator and author, François Nel researches media innovation and entrepreneurship in the news industry globally – and then helps forward-thinking individuals, groups and organisations to make it happen. At the University of Central Lancashire, UK, he is Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a member of the Media Innovation Studio (MIS) with responsibility for the MIS Visiting Researchers Programme and the monthly Adelphi Research Network meetings, amongst others.

Since completing his PhD in Community Participation in Mobile Entertainment Services, Mark’s research interests have grown to include the exploration and design of playful interfaces, interactions and technologies. He focusses these works around the human experience and to what effect it has on the wider communities.

  • Jack is a music producer, instrumentalist, audio visual artist and current PhD candidate. Jack’s passion for music began at an early age, where he started to learn how to play a variety of instruments and engage with different forms of musical composition. As he progressed through education, he embarked upon a three year Music Production course at the University of Central Lancashire, which he completed with a first class honours degree. Jack has been involved in a variety of creative solo projects, working with large scale audio and visual installation pieces which have been brought to public domain, and curating smaller online projects through various social media outlets.
  • Erik Knudsen is Professor of Media Practice at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK. He was formerly a Professor of Visual and Digital Culture at Bournemouth University. Prior to this, he was Professor of Film Practice at the University of Salford in Manchester, UK. At The University of Salford, he was the Head of The School of Media Music and Performance between 2010 and 2012.

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