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Innovating crosspoints; maker communities, DIYBio and universities

November 5, 2012
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I was reading the article the other day about maker communities and how they are harnessing new tech and may help reboot manufacturing industry.  As an university researcher/ academic (hate that term; means redundant?) It prompted me to think about the relationships that I am interested in developing with makers and DIYBio communities.

What I want is to make academics relevant and embedded in the community.  One of the recent projects that I have been doing is called #Patchworks, this is part of the Lancaster University Catalyst programme. Catalyst brings together a team of academics from a range of disciplines including social science, computing, design, environmental and management science and includes myself in biomedical sciences. It unites  with community organisations – large and small – based in Lancaster, Manchester, Derry-Londonderry, and further afield by working with high-profile partners such as the Manchester Digital Development Agency, FutureEverything, the RSA, and Community Matters.

The Patchworks project is a fusion of 2 community groups with Lancaster Uni academics; madlab in Manchester and Signposts in Morecambe.  The project is nearing its end now.  The idea was to carry out  transformative research on the theme of citizen-led social innovation.  This actually means people with needs coming up with a question and going through a creative process to develop cheap open source products that help them in their lives; improving overall health and well being. In this case the question was ‘how can technology be used to improve the lives of homeless people?’.  You might ask what is this guy doing working on this type of project? Well I think that the most creative areas are around the edges of what we know and experience. Everyone involved in this project has had to step out of their comfort zone and inhabit what I call the ‘discomfort zone’. Where we sometimes need to admit our ignorance and make mistakes becuase of our lack of knowledge and experience.   It has been a fantastic learning process for all involved in this and I hope to write more about this in the near future.

Meantime here is a short film intro about the project.

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