Forest of Imagination

Posted on March 4, 2021

Dr Ann-Louise Davidson (Concordia University, Canada) and Andrew Grant (Grant Associates and Forest of Imagination, Bath, UK): Imagine if… universities were fertile grounds for innovation

Dr Ann-Louise Davidson, Director of the Innovation Lab at Concordia University Montreal in conversation with Andrew Grant, Founding Director, Grant Associates and Co-Founder of Forest of Imagination, as part of our Creative Conversations series. This is aligned beautifully with the Imagine If Festival in honour of Sir Ken Robinson.


“Since the beginning of the pandemic, universities across the world have entered a time of turmoil. In the span of two weeks, course delivery moved online, students were sent home, international students returned to their countries and campuses were deserted. Mental illness issues started surfacing, exhaustion settled in and we haven’t been able to catch out breath since. These short-term consequences of the pandemic are turning into long-term damage at all levels. It traces a very gloomy picture. My work at Concordia University is all about turning this crisis on its head. Instead of thinking of an academic war zone, I am imagining the university as a fertile ground for innovation.

Innovation ecosystems in research universities are habitats for people and groups who embrace various innovation directions. On a daily basis, information and knowledge flow between individuals, units and across the groups that compose the innovation ecosystem. These exchanges exist through panels, conferences, brainstorming sessions, and a variety of thematic events that bring interdisciplinary groups together.  The challenge is to create structures with porous membranes that allow mentors, partners and collaborators from the outside to interact with students and groups on the inside and to tinker around innovation.

The Concordia University Innovation Lab I am launching this February is a playground where students and partners play, take risks, fail, experiment, test, iterate, learn, network and develop key skills for the 21st century workforce. The lab works in collaboration with various instances of innovation within the Concordia University innovation ecosystem and with partners and mentors who work alongside students.”

Dr. Ann-Louise Davidson is the Director of the Concordia University Innovation Lab. She also holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Maker Culture, is Associate Director of the Milieux Institute for Arts Culture and Technology, and Associate Professor at the Department of Education, and). Davidson is an expert in research on emergent and disruptive technologies for learning and in pedagogical innovation. She has conducted studies with youth, young adults, teachers, makers and intergenerational groups in schools, universities in para-public organizations and NGOs. She specializes in collaborative action-research to build communities of practice and enact change, and in personal construct psychology methodologies to analyze how stakeholders make sense of complex situations. She is a pioneer in the exploitation of democratized technologies for learning in the post-device era.

Part of the Creative Conversations series, hosted by Bath Spa University’s Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries.