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It’s one small step for man….one giant leap for Tesco Bank. Introducing Project Mercury

Dave Shaw
Dave Shaw
Head of Strategy and Design

Sixty years ago, the Americans launched Project Mercury, a spaceflight programme whose goal was to put a man into Earth’s orbit and return him safely. As part of this, a number of development flights took place, with the learnings from these going on to shape future programmes, including Project Gemini and the Apollo Space programme.

While I’m too young to remember the American Project Mercury, the significance and impact that it had on future space exploration is unquestionable. This is why, when a unique collaboration opportunity between Tesco Bank and the Centre of Design Informatics  at the University of Edinburgh, to explore emerging technologies and how these might impact future generations arose, it seemed fitting that it should be dubbed Project Mercury.

Don’t worry, Tesco Bank haven’t got any plans to send rockets into space (yet), but the principles that applied during that first US spaceflight programme - of research, testing, iteration and learning -underpin what our Project Mercury is fundamentally about.

Over the past year, through Project Mercury, Tesco Bank designers, software engineers, data scientists and programmers have worked in partnership with both students and lecturers from the University of Edinburgh’s Design Informatics School. Together we’ve participated in a lecture series delving deep into topics such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and data ethics; exploring both current and future applications of these technologies and the impacts that these could have on society.

Alongside this lecture series, project participants have had the opportunity to put their learnings into practice, through the research and development of three projects. The outputs of this are Deedit, Lens and Tess which will be on display as part of the Edinburgh International Arts Festival at the specifically built Design Informatics Pavilion, Data Pipe Dreams: Glimpse of a Near Future, on Edinburgh’s George Street throughout August. 

Our hope is that visitors will engage with these projects, providing valuable learnings that will help us, as well as students and lecturers from the University of Edinburgh to see how these technologies work in practice.

Just like the American space programme, our Project Mercury has been an exploration into the unknown, providing colleagues with the opportunity to learn about and discover new technologies; while working collaboratively with a wide range of people, including University students and lecturers. The exhibition space on Edinburgh’s George Street may be the culmination of this inaugural mission, but the experiences and opportunities that Project Mercury has offered will no doubt leave a much more lasting impact and I for one, am excited to see what that could look like.

To find out more information about Project Mercury, please visit:

https://www.designinformatics.org/case_study/tesco-bank-mercury-project/

The Design Informatics Pavilion, ‘Data Pipe Dreams: Glimpse of a Near Future’, is located at 8 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 28B. The pavilion is open 11am-6pm from 2 August – 26 August. Admission is free.

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