How a Future Hack could change your life...

Sounds like a cheesy advert, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Signing up and taking part in one of Future City’s four Future Hacks could change your life – there’s £20,000 to be won at each 48-hour event, a sizeable stack of seed money.

But the Future Hacks could ultimately affect your life even if you’re not taking part – the sole reason they exist is to encourage and support ideas to improve Glasgow.

Hack to the future

Let’s rewind a little. From football to coding, the word “hacking” has certain connotations, not all of them positive. To “hack” sounds aggressive, cavalier, quick and dirty – doing something that disregards the rules of the game. But in the right context, these are not necessarily bad things … particularly when it comes to encouraging new ways of thinking about old problems.

No right or wrong answer

The four distinct Future Hack themes – public safety, energy, health and transport – are areas that directly or indirectly affect everyone who lives in the city. The challenge at each Future Hack is simple: pitch an idea that will make things better. There are no right or wrong answers, but the open-ended nature of the task creates its own obstacles – even if you do come up with a concept you reckon could win the £20,000, how do you and your team develop it in just 48 hours?

Preparation is the mother of victory

That time limit is a burning fuse, intended to quicken the pulse, focus minds and wring every ounce of creativity out of those taking part. But while spontaneity and improvisation are the lifeblood of hackathons, there’s no need to start completely from scratch: each Future Hack has a specific theme, so brainstorming can begin well in advance. Should you try and improve general health in Glasgow, or target one particular area? What could be done to identify or redirect transport problems? The right groundwork could get you moving in the right direction early, allowing you to present a more fully-realised version of your idea to the judges.

Coders welcome ... and so is everyone else

There’s a public perception of hackathons being populated entirely by brainiac student programmers hunched over laptops in a nest of wires and discarded energy drinks. Coding skills can be vital to implementing ideas since they can wrangle data and technology in innovative ways. But not knowing how to string code together is no barrier to entry – you can always try and team up with someone with any skills you think you lack. Hi-tech, low-tech, smartphone-powered or people-powered … as long as the idea can enhance life in the city, it’s as valid as the slickest app.

The support and expertise that you need

The intense 48-hour nature of each Future Hack might create a hothouse atmosphere but it’s not a vacuum. Mentors and relevant stakeholders with in-depth knowledge relating to each theme will be on hand, so your team won’t be problem-solving in the dark. Health, transport … these are big issues that can be difficult to get heads round and handles on. Having access to experts with real-world experience can help you wrangle your idea when it grows arms and legs.

The end could be just the beginning

At the end of 48 hours, each team presents the final version of their idea to a panel of judges, who then decide who gets the £20,000. But the Future Hacks don’t end when the prize has been awarded and the pizza boxes are tidied away – they have been conceived as catnip to start-ups. You’ll have presented your ideas to mentors, stakeholders and judges, and they will probably have asked trickier questions than many potential customers. Continue to develop the idea, bring it to market and be part of the Future City story when the word is being spread around the world. It starts with 48 hours, but it could change your life.



Public safety is the first step toward a greater quality of life; can we leverage innovation to promote collaboration? Engage with otherwise hard-to-reach communities? Use untapped channels? Encourage citizens to share their knowledge? Read the story



Our energy-intensive societies compromise future generations’ ability to meet their needs. How do we balance present and future needs? The conversation needs to include everyone from businesses to citizens. Energy efficiency is a starting point but is it the only answer? Read the story



Although health in Scotland has improved over the last century, Glasgow still faces serious health challenges. Scientists have given it a name: the ‘Glasgow effect’. Life expectancy at birth is the lowest in the UK – a reality that poverty, diet, drinking or crime cannot fully explain. Read the story


30 May - 1 June 2014

The final hackathon brings together elements from the previous three hackathons. Issues around public safety, energy and health are all relevant within the transport theme. Read more and sign up


We are looking for people with imagination, vision and enthusiasm to take part and come up with innovative concepts that surprise, delight and inspire and have the potential to become reality. People like you.

Sign up for the newsletter