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Unearthing NTNU's Hyfer Fest

A celebration for curious minds

This article originally appeared in The List Summer issue 2023 and was written in partnership with Hyfer.

(Photo: Terje Trobe)

Last fall, NTNU and its partners launched a novel knowledge fest: Hyfer. The unique approach garnered great interest and will continue to evolve and innovate this year. But what can you expect at this year’s knowledge fest? The List met up with the Hyfer team to find out!


Despite being four months away from now, the preparations for the next Hyfer Fest are in full swing. We met up with the team during a quick break in the cosy, forested DIGS café to discuss the fest. “We’re so excited to be able to share stories and create this platform, to share fantastic innovation from this region,” says Tanja Holmen, the fest manager.

Tanja Holmen is the manager for Hyfer Fest. (Photo: McKenna Starck)

Last year, Tanja and her team managed 40 collaborations in 20 different locations with 9000 attendees! Hyfer’s ultimate goal in the future is to celebrate knowledge and form new connections in the three NTNU campus cities: Ålesund, Gjøvik, and Trondheim. While the task is a daunting one, Hyfer has been well received.


This year’s fest will take place at NTNU campus Kalvskinnet, DIGS, and Sluppen, as well as other satellite locations in Trondheim. Hyfer 2023 will highlight the exciting innovations and discoveries from the regions with a special interest around the theme of ENERGY.


Unearth new knowledge

Anne Borg, Rector of NTNU at Hyfer Fest. (Photo: Terje Trobe)

Trondheim has a long and great tradition of being a festival hub, whether it’s celebrations of art, cinema, or music. The city also frequently hosts big conferences due to its role as a knowledge centre and innovation engine. Therefore, it made sense to create a meeting place that occupied the space in between – a knowledge fest that had the best of both worlds by combining great experiences with inspiring sciences.


Hyfer will be a unique experience for seasoned festival-goers. The fun and engaging experiences are there, but its core is sharing knowledge and supporting cross-disciplinary collabs through unique and fun formats.


Tanja emphasises the importance of interdisciplinary work for big and small solutions: “The more you open your mind to new fields of knowledge, the more equipped you are to tackle new challenges and give life to new ideas.”


One of the goals of Hyfer Fest is to break down complex topics across multiple disciplines in a way that is easy to understand. But how will Hyfer achieve this?


Learn through play

Gunneruspris winner, Professor Jianguo ‘Jack’ Liu, chatting with students after a relaxed event at Digs. (Photo: Terje Trobe)

“Hyfer is not just another festival focused on entertainment value,” says McKenna Starck, Hyfer’s marketing manager. "It's about people connecting with other curious minds in fun and memorable settings where they exchange knowledge and new ideas. Our hope is for people to leave Hyfer feeling inspired by their experience, having learned something new."


Lectures have their place in the world, but Hyfer’s approach is based on the idea that people are more likely to retain knowledge in smaller doses and when the environment is unique and the experience fun. Hyfer is about creating experiences and exhibitions to challenge you, to make you consider things you hadn’t thought of before, and to get you excited to learn about a topic you hadn’t previously considered. And that goes for all sciences and disciplines, whether it’s art, marine biology, or AI.


The cross-disciplinary panel discussing the movie 'After Yang' after its pre-premiere at Hyfer in collaboration with Kosmorama. (Photo: McKenna Starck)

Last year’s collaboration between Hyfer and Kosmorama for a pre-premiere of the Sundance acclaimed film After Yang, a sci-fi drama about artificial intelligence, is the perfect example of the hybrid experiences Hyfer creates. After the screening, a cross-disciplinary panel discussed the film and invited the audience to participate in an intimate session.


“We had a psychologist, philosopher, and AI expert from NTNU along with a film expert from Kosmorama,” says Tanja. “It was a really unique experience because the discussion was much freer than at other events. The audience was involved from the beginning and the conversation spanned everything from the artistic narrative of the story to the real-life implications and technological likelihood of humans loving a machine.”


Tanja says this multidisciplinary approach really encapsulates what Hyfer is all about – but also its light-heartedness and sense of fun. “Children learn through play. Adults are really the same. So encouraging unique and fun formats for learning and inspiration is more important than ever.”


Pique your curiosity

Zane Cerpina, curator at TEKS and co-author of 'The Anthropocene Cookbook: Recipes and Opportunities for Future Catastrophes'. (Photo: McKenna Starck)

Hyfer invites you with open arms to come and experience the science, innovation, and knowledge emanating across our region. And to try something new by plugging into Hyfer’s neurological network of great minds!


If you have a hunger for new knowledge and want to feel inspired, there will be an array of different experiences for you who are naturally curious: workshops, interactive talks, fireside chats, networking activities, tours, and unique experiences within music, film, art, food and more.


The autonomous passenger ferry ‘milliAmpere 2’ became the world’s first self-propelled electric passenger ferry to operate in urban waterways during Hyfer Fest. (Photo: Terje Trobe)

So if you are curious about the world, about what is possible, and have a hunger for learning new things, this is the celebration for you and those with an open mind.


Bonus: What the fungi are ‘Hyfer’?

Hyphae – or ‘hyfer’ in Norwegian – are the filaments in the fungal root network known as mycelium, which make all kinds of ecological connections possible, from trees communicating with one another to promoting fast-paced nutrient uptake to support decomposition, and therefore, life. Hyfer Fest, much like its fungal namesake, is not limited to one function. The Hyfer platform aims to be this kind of multivalent space for business partners, academics, gurus, connoisseurs, experts in culture, art, and citizens to collaborate and connect.


This article originally appeared in The List Summer issue 2023 and was written in partnership with Hyfer.

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