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Utopia is a ‘no-space’ for contemplation, innovation and collaboration.

Jennifer Williams describes how Utopia was born:

“The Utopia Project began as the flicker of an idea back in 2017. I had often dreamed of running a residency centre for artists and writers. An opportunity to do so arose as I took on the role of Projects & Engagement Coordinator at the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh and connected with the Edinburgh Futures Institute. When I was first designing the project, I needed a shimmering central idea to focus the residencies and I stumbled across ‘utopia’ in my research. What especially interested me was finding out that before Thomas More’s book Utopia was published in 1516, utopia meant something rather more open than the vision of a perfect society that we associate it with now:

“The word comes from Greek: οὐ (‘not’) and τόπος (‘place’) and means ‘no-place’ and strictly describes any non-existent society ‘described in considerable detail’.” Lyman Tower, Sargent (2005)

It was this idea of a ‘no-place’ that we could travel to in our lab/space-time machine, in order to conduct collective thought experiments about possible actions in a variety of worlds, which really caught my imagination. Could this concept of utopia be used as a way to generate ideas which would be useful in our world and time?”

Our Utopia Labs are ‘no-spaces’, places where everyone is welcome to join us in dreaming futures that inspire our experience of the present. Our labs curate interactions between academics, artists, entrepreneurs, students and audiences in person and online globally. We are interested in that which is provocative and irreverent as well as that which is nurturing and joyful. Utopia questions are catalysts for inquiry, learning and creativity. With an emphasis on innovative and experimental ways of communicating, we explore meditation, dialogue and co-creation with the help of a facilitator. Participants consist of University of Edinburgh staff and students, and non-University practitioners.

To date, Utopia Labs have happened in 2019, 2022 and 2023.

To get a better sense of what happens during Utopia Labs, take a look at this video.

About the Utopia Team

Jennifer Williams is the Creative Projects Manager at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Her background is in writing, art, collaboration, creative learning and project management. She holds a BA degree from Wellesley College in English Literature with a Studio Art minor, and an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. Recent posts have included Projects & Engagement Coordinator at the Institute for Academic Development, Programme Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library and Literature Officer at the Traverse Theatre. See Jennifer’s website for more information about her own creative explorations.



Man with light coloured hair and glasses in a coatDr Matjaz Vidmar is one of the first utopians, joining the pilot project in 2019. He is excited about philosophical, processual and political implications of utopian thinking, but actually enjoys the off-grid, poetry-infused meditative vibe of our labs the most. Matjaz is also an academic in Engineering Management, where he is researching innovation processes, R&D (eco)systems and futures strategies and design, especially within the space industry, artificial intelligence and data-driven economy. He leads interdisciplinary projects spanning arts, science and civil society, he is involved in several start-up companies; and he delivers an extensive public engagement programme. More at


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