Text on navy background reads 'New funded projects' with three flags bearing the numbers 01, 02, and 03. Below these are the text 'REPLICATE', 'Active Material Library', and 'Robust Digital Devices for Harsh Environments'

We’re excited to announce the start of three research projects funded by the pro² network+. Each was successful in responding to our June 2023 funding call on the theme of ‘Replicability,’ which aims to solve challenges related to the replication of digital devices for testing or production purposes. While it’s become easier than ever for people to make prototypes of digital devices, turning them into scalable products or ‘isotypes’ remains inaccessible to many. That’s where our three new research projects will step in to seek accessible ways of overcoming barriers beyond traditional production manufacturing.

Read on to find out more about these projects and how they plan to tackle the ‘Replicability’ challenge.


Led by Andrew Scott, a senior lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, ‘REPLICATE’ stands for ‘Rapid and Economical Prototype dupLICATion for Electronics’. The project is well-supported by three industry partners: the not-for-profit Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Eurocircuits, and Microsoft Research.

Micro:bit is a physical computing device with software that allows total beginners to prototype electronic devices. It’s been successful in classrooms all over the world where an estimated 39 million young people have learned about coding and digital device prototyping. It can be paired with Jacdac, a modular electronics platform, to extend the Micro:bit’s hardware allowing users to easily prototype novel hardware and software combinations. While this technology is versatile and accessible at the prototype stage, it faces isotyping challenges which the REPLICATE project will aim to overcome.

The proposed solution is to create a web tool that enables users to create robust, replicable copies of a Jacdac-enhanced Micro:bit prototype. The web tool will provide production files for ordering necessary parts and assembly instructions, while maximising efficiency in terms of time, cost and labour. In this way it will strive to democratise the creation of digital devices by expanding the Micro:bit ecosystem of low-cost and widely accessible prototyping resources.

Active Material Library

Active material fabrication makes use of materials that allow for touch input and information output, leading to the creation of interactive devices that are already being explored in a wide range of areas like augmented living, education and healthcare. Examples of this include smart textiles, wearable electronic devices for monitoring health, and any electronic device with a touchscreen. Pairing this with decentralised design and automated fabrication promises to lower the skill threshold needed to not only prototype but reliably reproduce active material devices.

Currently the resources needed to create active material devices span a wide variety of functional materials, deposition techniques and assessment criteria. Those interested in working with these devices are similarly diverse, including artists, researchers, industry and hobbyists, resulting in a lack of communication and knowledge sharing between groups. These issues limit the production of active material devices and restrain the development of the field.

To overcome this barrier, a digital library of active materials and associated fabrication methods has been proposed by project lead Ollie Hanton, a lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at the University of Bath. He is supported by Cameron Steer, lecturer in Computer Science at the University of the West of England, and industry partner Senmag Robotics, self-described VR enthusiasts that specialise in haptic feedback products. The Active Material Library will bring together diverse communities with an interest in this area to build maker-driven comparison scaffolding of material choices which can be used in design. As a hub for resources and collaboration, it will aim to empower even more people to create and replicate their own active material devices.

Robust Digital Devices for Harsh Environments

Christof Lutteroth, a Reader in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath, serves as the principal investigator for this project. Lutteroth is a researcher in Human Computer Interaction with interests in VR and eye-gaze interaction as well as the co-founder of the New Zealand-based company Complay Health which will support the project as its industry partner. Complay Health build digital devices that support Chest Physiotherapy (CPT), a common treatment for children with cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis.

Repetitive and frequent CPT is boring for many children, leading to difficulties in adhering to treatment plans. Complay Health solves this problem by gamifying the experience using a game controller with sensors for movement and breathing. Unfortunately, this comes with replicability challenges, as the device must be both affordable and robust enough to withstand regular sterilisation in boiling water and use by children who may handle the device roughly.

The project aims to find solutions to these problems and ultimately serve as an exemplar for the scalable replication of digital devices used in harsh environments. It will do this by creating an affordable, replicable production process for robust casings and electronics that can withstand heat, water, and mechanical forces. The results have the potential to be transferred to a wide range of devices used in healthcare, sports, entertainment, industry and agriculture.

What’s next?

If you’re curious to know more about these projects, follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) for updates. You can also register for free to be a pro² network+ member, giving you access to the member’s section of our website for networking and collaboration. Members also receive the pro² newsletter with information about our events, future funding calls, and everything we’re doing to democratise the production of digital devices.

Ensuring an equitable funding process

We’re committed to creating a network that is inclusive and fair to all, as outlined in our EDI Framework. Following our recent funding call, we are open to feedback from applicants or those who considered applying at admin@prosquared.org. Your feedback will help us to improve our processes and better meet the needs of future applicants.

Read more about our 2023 funding process and the work we’re doing to meet our equity goals.