Jimmy Haughey is a graduate of Liverpool John Moores University, originally from the North West of Ireland. He has worked in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, China and Vietnam, in varied roles including as executive director of a FTSE100 company, ground management and business acquisition.
His vision for Liverpool AquaFarm is to demonstrate a modular, off-grid, aquaculture centre, to produce food in urban locations, using disused space. The test bed will be at Clarence Graving Dock in North Liverpool, carrying out R&D and producing fresh fish, seaweed and shellfish. Its future phases will focus an SME cluster and visitor destination to promote innovation and raise awareness of the sustainability agenda.
Jimmy’s family has a long-running farm in the west of Ireland, which farms seaweed and cut turf alongside animals and land. The seaweed, he says, is mainly used to feed the ground and for animal fodder, which he began to think of as an untapped resource.
Setting up Seaweed Alchemy in partnership with the universities allows farming of seaweed from the family farm in Ireland, which can also be used for research purposes. ‘There are diverse prospects for products,’ he says. ‘Engagement with different species of seaweed allows different approaches to its use in health and wellbeing, in food and in wound management. Nature is a great healer and it can be used in the treatment of ulcers, which is a particularly expanding area with an ageing population. We’re now looking at how to improve these and create market products.’ Seaweed Alchemy is also involved with the Institute of Integrated Biology and transitional medicine.
Jimmy’s skills are honed from his experience working around the world, and as an employee of one of the largest drinks companies in the world. Living and working in Africa and Asia has ‘culturally complemented’ his skills, he says, operating in cultures that are more innovation-led, often where smaller operations leading to innovation. He also talks about his journey from Irish coast farm to engaging with technology and a move to the city, which has given him direct access to a relatively untapped resource – the raw material of seaweed.
Seaweed Alchemy currently collaborates with a number of organisations, including two institutes – charactering different types of seaweed, and in transitional medicine – and works alongside Liverpool City Council and Peel Holdings on Liverpool Aqua Farm, his OpenMaker finalist. OpenMaker, and the establishment of a LES (Local Enabling Space) is ‘the glue to take it forwards’, he says.
‘I was invited to an innovation workshop when I came to Liverpool. It allowed me to become part of enterprise partnerships – meeting Alex Kelly from Make Liverpool gave me an insight into what they were doing in the North Docks, and I came across OpenMaker through her. I appreciate the chance to meet like-minded people and new ways of working.
‘I’m interested in looking at personalised health as a long term approach, and at managing food sustainability and health and wellbeing in the shorter term,’ he says. ‘OpenMaker is a mechanism for taking the next step, and also enables long-term thinking with all the stakeholders in the process. It ratifies our thinking, and provides a positive badge.
‘In assessing whether we’ve been successful in the next nine to 12 months, our main criteria are the delivery of a demonstrator on the dock as a world first; creating a governance structure to align something that respects players as well as entrepreneurs, using communication and engagement as a business, and a proposed festival in June, giving us a wonderful place to shout about our project.
‘The opportunity,’ says Jimmy ‘is a real positive. The funders – whether they’re coming from government, regional or private – want something to happen. But universities have to get more involved – they need to have more conversations and impact. We need to “dirty the gown” and cut out bureaucracy. If we can keep it fluid we can keep it moving,’ he says.
‘We need to have an “aligned objective”, that is not coming from one of us. For the dock, we have to prove it’s a win/win situation. It is beneficial – it is in North Liverpool; it gets the universities out of their institutions and wearing “dirty clothes”; it places private, public and third sector together, which has a more cohesive impact. We need to find commonality and grow when you don’t know what you’re growing.’
Angela Loveridge has had a varied career, teaching English as a foreign language, working in radio, as a counsellor, and with people with mental health issues. It was her work with people with mental health issues that led her to set up an origami group; she now collaborates with business partners Zulay Newell and Dr Lizzie Burns.
‘My whole set of life experiences have been brought together to get me here – focusing on possibilities through numerous avenues of origami,’ says Angela. ‘It has played its part in the technological revolution – I once met with world famous origamist Robert Lang, who is working with NASA to develop a shield to block out light pollution from earth to enable better vision into space. I also worked in one of his classes – he developed a laser punch that makes small holes in paper, visible when held up to light, allowing the person to fold along the perforations, enabling invention and expanding possibilities. There is a lot of innovation involving origami, especially in terms of technology. It has played a fundamental role in the miniaturisation of technology: from the folding of DNA structures to the folding of maps.’
Origami pulse is working alongside manufacturer Re-wrapped, which has created a wrapping paper weighing in at 80gsm (a better weight for origami) rather than its standard 300gsm. Its paper is made solely from 100% recycled materials, using vegetable inks and environmentally-friendly products.
One of the key parts of Origami Pulse’s plan is to develop its own paper, printed with crystalline chemicals that represent the happiness chemicals in the body, such as dopamine, and to represent these through happiness ‘symbols’ – so people will literally be folding happiness.
Angela’s recent teaching experience at the Open Door centre has led to an interest in how people see origami and assume that they can’t do it, before finding that they can, and the benefits this sense of achievement can have. The experience can be ‘life changing’ she says.
‘I want to take a role in origami becoming recognised as a feel better tool –particularly in relation to mental health, and to publish a book on how origami changes lives, with statistics,’ says Angela. ‘We are generating statistics as we go along, so hope to collaborate and write this book, combining information about the creation of new neural pathways as a result of ‘making’ with the production and uses of origami. I also hope to travel the world teaching origami, and to to initiate a global mobile origami community through our website.
‘The main challenges are to finance publicity, finding the time to develop the enterprise and funding the development period,’ she says.
A parallel interest lies in the greetings card industry. ‘In the UK, it’s responsible for employing more than 100,000 people, so – even though paper may be considered a dated material – it’s an area that is still massive,’ she says. ‘No other country has such a long and widespread tradition of sending cards. An average of 33 cards are send by each person per year and card making is the number one hobby in Britain. There are not existing physical cards in production for people specifically with mental health issues. One in six people have experienced a common mental health problem in the past week. Between four and ten percent of people will experience serious depression in their lifetime.
‘We are planning an ‘opening up’ card,’ says Angela, ‘designed specifically for mental health issues – the idea being to allow those suffering to give something to people to say they are not feeling so good. 75% of people with mental health problems will never receive a Get Well card, and say they would feel better for having received one. As part of our product range, we plan to make Get Well cards for those suffering mental illness.’
Alongside workshops and a presence in hospitals, Origami Pulse is developing a website to build up the interactive element of their enterprise, enabling people to become part of a network, and be able to contact others through the site.
‘The international element is important for us. I’ve worked in the States, teaching and folding, and visited a convention in New York. I’ve also visited Tokyo, and there are conventions all over Europe, including one with a science and art theme, at which Dr. Lizzie Burns will be presenting a paper as a result of her work with us. There are definitely opportunities to make further links and possibilities through OpenMaker.’
‘I think OpenMakers values are great. We’ve met so many people – it’s amazing how connections create a sense of wellbeing. The open-ness of ideas is fantastic. Just this little bit of involvement has made me believe my ideas can come to fruition,’ she says.
Paper could be considered the first industrial revolution,’ says Angela. ‘We wouldn’t be where we are today without it. It may be obliterated in the near future, but origami could be its swan song, as it becomes less prolific and more as a creative tool and material of beauty.’
Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs is an author, lecturer and initiator in the fashion and footwear industry, with a particular interest in new and better ways to do business. She is also a director of Baltic Creative CIC, a social enterprise property company established in 2009 to support the creative and digital ecosystem in Liverpool.
Fiona led the Liverbird ShoeProject in July 2017, collaborating with Fab Lab Liverpool at the School of Art and Design in LJMU, and with artist and honorary visiting fellow Emma Rodgers. The project originated from an exploration of different approaches to shoes, sculpture and technology, highlighting challenges in the fashion industry around over-production, and developing innovative ways to mix traditional types of making and 3D printing technologies.
‘I have limited practical skills and hope this project will help me develop the basics that I have, particularly in 3D printing software,’ she says, pinpointing 3D printing, wearable technology, women in tech and large scale 3D printing as areas she would like to learn more about.
‘Throughout my career in the footwear industry I have worked closely with designers to realise commercial collections. My most recent commercial collaboration was with Joanne Stoker, a British footwear designer and Oka-B, a US-based injection moulded flip flop manufacturer, to create a limited edition pool slide that was launched at London Fashion Week in 2015.’
Fiona says that manufacturing is integral to understanding how footwear and fashion is made, and always insists on seeing facilities. ‘Unfortunately the past 20 years have seen a focus on satisfying what the consumer wants and not what is necessarily the best, most ethical or safest way to make and manufacture fashion products. This is part of the problem in a very opaque supply chain,’ she says.
Fiona’s project is designed to look at ways to solve some of these issues, and bridge the gap between the designer, maker, producer and consumer. As a director of Baltic Creative, she is well aware of people, businesses and organisation collaborating. ‘That network and support system gives everyone the confidence to keep innovating, testing and trying,’ she says.
‘The culture in commercial companies is usually driven by their own management objectives and not necessarily creative individual relationships, so it is important for the maker to keep in touch and not expect to be at the forefront of a company’s mind,’ says Fiona. ‘As a maker, you need to build good relationships with key people in the company and keep delivering something interesting/ bring something to the table.Know how to stand up for yourself – but be gracious at the same time!’
Many of Fiona’s targets for her project are around sustainability and ethical trade, establishing a business that can profitably and fairly help all makers to commercialise their creations. ‘Creations that can satisfy a customer’s desire for something that is fashionable and beautiful, but has not been created through abuses in the supply chain and is manufactured well,’ she says.
Fiona will use four criteria to assess the success of the OpenMaker programme, including:
Have we been able to create several footwear designs?
Are any of them actually wearable? A fit test will be carried out…
Is there a potential business model where I can provide a service to makers to transform their work into a commercial product that is well made, and that people want to buy?
How much interest have we created, press and potential sales orders?
‘The fashion industry has little choice but to embrace 4.0,’ says Fiona. ‘The rate that people buy, consume and dispose of fashion is totally unsustainable. Finding new ways to manufacture that reduces waste and creates affordable bespoke items is essential – OpenMaker has the power and resources to get people to try to find solutions through new relationships. How can we use 4.0 for good and to challenge some of the current issues in the fashion industry such as overproduction and waste? It’s a no brainer!’
Ten semi finalists from the UK have been selected for the OpenMaker programme.
The programme has been facilitated in the UK by the Beautiful Ideas Company, alongside fellow teams in Spain, Italy and Slovakia. The UK judging panel included Liverpool deputy mayor Cllr Nick Small, local entrepreneur Gemma McGowan, Paul Dickson from LJMU and Anthony Walker, project manager of the LCR4.0 project at LJMU, acting as a technical advisor.
Seven of the semi-finalists are from the Liverpool City Region, including Wirral and North Liverpool, with a further three from Salford. Each of the semi-finalists is active in an area that the Beautiful Ideas Company has worked over the last two years, as it builds clusters in the grassroots creative economy.
Judge Gemma McGowan says: ‘I was really surprised by the standard of the applications and the immense knowledge and creativity we have within the maker/manufacturer sectors. When the Beautiful Ideas Co started delivering OpenMaker I didn’t think I was techy or creative. What I now realise is that technology affects almost every part of our economy and the applicants and their ideas are an exciting force for social change, driven by social values.
‘It’s good to see links created between makers and manufacturer communities, and was an honour to be involved in hearing their ideas. It was also very impressive to see a balanced 50-50 gender split of semi-finalists. While women might not traditionally have been seen as natural manufacturers, the ideas are strong, focused and exciting.’
The ten semi-finalists are:
Small Scale Manufacturing of Fashion Footwear
3D printing is used to develop a process for designers, artists and makers, creating footwear prototypes to be commercialised. The ability to create small scale production runs allows new designers and small businesses to avoid the expensive start-up costs, high levels of financial investment and failures seen by many makers and manufacturers in this sector.
Both designers and labourers are often exploited for excessive commercial profits with long supply chains, in which components are transported globally. First demonstrated at the British Style Collective (formerly The Clothes Show) 2017, the opportunity to produce short runs places the process in the hands of designers – and ultimately customers – in what is otherwise a highly exclusive and unsustainable sector.
Maker: Shoe Bird Ltd and manufacturer: LJMU Fablab
3D scanners to link creative industries
Objocopiers are professional, self-contained 3D scanners which will be used to connect Liverpool’s diverse creative community. The easy-to-use open-source scanners will allow the city’s scattered and siloed creative communities to share prototypes, and encourage companies to work together in new ways to realise existing assets through new distribution channels.
The 3D scanners will operate by putting a person or object on a rotating plinth, which will take hundreds of photographs, via six high tech cameras on a rotary arm. The data will then be processed automatically by a photogrammetry app on the scanner and shared to a specialised local place in the cloud, which all collaborators will have access to.
Maker: Maiku Ltd, Real Space Ltd and manufacturer: LJMU Art and Design School
The Aquafarm is an off-grid aquaculture centre in Liverpool’s Clarence Graving Dock. Utilising a currently disused space, the farm will produce food locally in urban locations, including fresh fish, seaweed and shellfish on a pilot scale, whilst also carrying out research and development.
Addressing the challenges of scaling up for a commercial operation, the Aquafarm will use existing off-grid services and modularity for flexible scalability, allowing it to be replicated in any location. Future phases of the Aquafarm will see it used as a focus for an SME cluster and visitor destination, promoting innovation whilst raising awareness of the sustainability agenda.
Maker: Seaweed Alchemy Ltd and manufacturer: WhiteCircle Ltd
Microhome is a home and workspace, which is available in a range of custom-built design prototypes. It’s a response to the UK’s housing crisis which has seen homelessness double in the past four years, and creative producers – who are essential to sustainable urban economies – being forced out. There has also been a further wave of 21 to 35 year olds becoming homeless and/ or leaving urban areas, as housing assistance is withdrawn from this age group.
Delivered fully assembled, Microhome is ‘plugged in’ to services on temporary, permanent, small and infill sites, and can be used on sites too small for commercial value, in difficult locations, and assets awaiting long term value or site assembly. The units cost between £25,000-35,000 and allow for rents of £40 to £100 per week.
Microhome will be built and tested with a live residential community, and exhibited at the National Housing Federation showcase, on land donated for five years by Salford City Council.
Maker: Salford Makers with manufacturer: Salix Homes Developments and Islington Mill Arts Club
Physical Innovation Platform
The Physical Innovation Platform brings together designers, makers and manufacturers, to form a network which will produce an open source ‘blueprint’ style archive of commissions, to be used throughout the creative community. Often, makers and designers are asked to compete to win commissions, and usually only those with access to the relevant resources can take them up. The Physical Innovation Platform creates the opportunity for the creative community through a ‘how we did it’ style blueprint, which can be shared and replicated across the community.
Manufacturer, Finsa, will use the platform to challenge the conventional use of its products whilst testing limits and producing content to market them. An innovative display stand, which has been designed by designers and made by makers, will be at the Surface and Design Show in London during the project, and will be testing materials for the manufacturer.
The Physical Innovation Platform creates an opportunity for designers, makers and manufacturers to work together on live projects, engage in research and development, and develop a blueprint for how this approach can be applied in other places.
Maker: Make Liverpool, WMB Studio and manufacturer: Finsa
FUEd 1.0 Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
FUEd is a powerful, responsive and integrated educational tool, designed to keep pace with the fourth Industrial Revolution – industry 4.0. There are three key components to FUEd: a real world scientific problem; a physical piece of cutting-edge technology; and accompanying responsive, dynamic, digital content. FUEd 1.0 will deliver the prototype of an educational tool, incorporating a piece of fourth Industrial Revolution technology – Zipgrow, a vertical food growing system – enabling high school students to explore real world problems through up-to-date technology.
This creative approach places curiosity and self-directed problem-solving at the heart of learning, allowing students to participate in collaborative research and citizen science experiments based around industry 4.0 technology whilst equipping them with the skills they will need in the new world of work.
Maker: FarmUrbanLtd, IGOO and manufacturer: REFARMERS
Aqua Running creates unique bodysuits to allow anyone of any age, ability or disability to exercise comfortably in deep water with no impact on bones, joints or muscles.
The buoyancy suit contains 19 strategically placed buoyancy pads, which keep a person’s head above water and activates core muscles to help correct running and jogging position in the water. Its lack of impact allows people to exercise safely – with no risk of injury – very early in recovery from surgery, illness or injury, and is fully CE certified to the highest European Safety Standards.
As well as also acting as an excellent learn to swim aid for children, the buoyancy suit is in its next stage of development, which will include sensors to retrieve physiological data about the patient’s recovery, monitoring exercise and fitness levels during exercise. The first suit with integrated sensors will be launched in 2018 at Real Madrid FC, and the National Children’s Clinic for Cerebral Palsy and Brain Paralysis in Spain.
Maker: Terence Nelson with manufacturer: Sensor City
Smart Print will pilot a digital database, designed to transform the consumer into a digital artisan, and deconstructing the mass-market fashion machine. Using a historical archive of over 50,000 wallpapers and textiles dating from the early 18th century, it will create a large digital database of antique motifs. These are in high demand as inspiration for designers in high street brands including M&S and John Lewis. This large digital mix-and-match pattern database will not only preserve and immortalise the beautiful timeless motifs, but provide a pioneering resource for the second stage of the project, creating unique mix-and-match designs, exploring possibilities and refining the digital design process.
The third stage involves our collaboration with a manufacturer to produce a range of wallpapers showcasing this unique design process, to be launched at a high-profile European interiors trade-show. This database will form a globally-accessible digital platform that can be used by the design-novice consumer to create and personalise print to express their identity and to create personal products in smart factories.
Who: Maker Cheryl O’Meara and manufacturer Digitex
Temporary Custodians Platform
Temporary Custodians Platform is an interactive website, which will host an innovative and accessible public database of artworks – an important new cultural resource for the region. It will provide a platform for private collections, including the collections of a sample of small to medium sized collectors, plus ‘Temporary Custodians of Islington Mill’, a collectively owned artwork created by Maurice Carlin and currently held by 80 individuals.
This project aims to disrupt the current art market and collecting system, which limits notions of success for artists; concentrates wealth and opportunity in large urban international centres such as London, and excludes all but the wealthiest tiers of society. This project will prototype an alternative collaborative model, by bringing together the burgeoning collector community in the North West.
Maker: Res and manufacturer Origens Medialab
Origami Pulse will produce a unique range of origami paper, printed with original art work and crystalline forms of happiness-producing chemicals. Each sheet of Origami paper contains serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins – meaning that people will literally be able to fold happiness.
It has been created to combat the current mental health challenges facing the UK, which cause over £26.1 billion of lost earnings every year in the UK. Origami Pulse paper, alongside a combination of workshops, a website, cards designed specifically for mental health and a library with quotes and inspirations, will revolutionise the communication of emotional states in modern society.
The fusion of the ancient art form of origami with modern manufacturing and communication processes, will result in bespoke workshops cards and kits, creating solutions for the mental health challenges experienced by one in four people in the UK.
Maker: Mobile Craft 4 U and manufacturer: Re-wrapped
The OpenMaker finalists are due to be announced later this month, and will collectively share a funding pot of more than €100,000.
Sound engineer John Lancaster co-runs Birdshit Records. As a maker and a manufacturer, he makes his own equipment, from amplifiers to studio equipment, and is currently working on a project to cut vinyl records.
John’s project idea revolves around the manufacture of vinyl records. Normally, vinyl involves a minimum pressing quantity, with an order of at least a few hundred discs for recording artists and creatives to distribute vinyl records of their work. His plan is to use his own lathe to cut individual copies and to accept a minimum order of one copy.
Typical, his clients are hip-hop artists who need single copies of 12 inch records to use in scratching; creatives who need them to use as promotional tools; and musicians and artists who aren’t able to – or simply don’t want to – record in such large batches.
John feels that ‘there’s a certain mystique’ to the world of vinyl, and insists he’s not a ‘vinyl fetishist’. He enjoys being part of a process that he has created and developed himself, that allows an artist to be part of the journey from composition through to the production of the sound object. He likes the ‘hands on’ process of cutting individual discs and working the lathe. He says: ‘people are more likely to listen to something you’ve made if you put a record – putting a tangible object into their hands is more powerful than, say, sending a link to Sound Cloud.’
John aims to offer artists and creatives a bespoke service that gives them access to vinyl production, which they can scale up if they want to. He wants to de-mystify a production process which, although complicated, has several elements that anyone could try.
John’s current lathe has been designed and built by a German jukebox engineer. For a range of reasons, this has led to the production of these lathes being something of a ‘closed shop’.
In the US particularly, there is growing interest in restoring old disc cutting lathes, some of which date back to the 1930s. They remain popular on ebay and are in short supply, which John suggests could be linked to the rise of World Record Store Day. John’s dream is to have a roomful of these very specialist lathes and train up artists and creatives, giving them complete control over the means of production of their creativity.
John’s links with musicians across Salford and Manchester – and work with Band on the Wall and Islington Mill – led him to the OpenMaker project. Longer term, he would like to collaborate with fellow creative producers and look at coming up with a portable prototype that could fit in a flight case and be used anywhere. His ideal prototype would also include a digital element to combine old and new technology, and he’s in the process of identifying creatives who would be interested in working with him on this long term project.
Johns plans include:
• developing and building an open-source, digitally-controlled lathe (or at least one of the key lathe components)
• create a training and development programme so creatives can make their own records
• producing individual records
• developing a touring ‘pop-up’ record shop, where records are recorded and manufactured in situ…
• developing sustainable, alternative materials for the discs themselves.
Dr. Paul Myers is a director of Farm Urban, which links scientific research with local food production. Its founder members are bio-scientists based at the University of Liverpool, focusing on developing the knowledge and systems to introduce innovative urban farms into communities nationwide.
How did your idea develop, and what technologies and tools do you use?
Rising food and energy prices, increasing unemployment and unhealthy, unsustainable lifestyles are major concerns for today’s society. We believe that the development and implementation of efficient, technologically-advanced urban farms are a key part of the solution.
By taking science fresh from the lab and implementing it at the farm in the heart of urban communities, we aim to change both how we do science and how we farm our food. We develop and test the most efficient ways to grow food in urban environments, focusing primarily on aquaponics.
Aquaponics provides a focal point around which communities can come together. We work alongside groups as diverse as schools, allotment owners, residents’ associations, hospitals and universities to develop programs and education around sustainable urban living.
We install and manage innovative, high-tech urban farms that produce low cost food in a sustainable and cost-effective way. These farms can regenerate communities, provide jobs, promote health and lower carbon emissions.
How did you learn about OpenMaker? Why did you find it interesting?
I learned about OpenMaker through the Beautiful Ideas Company, and I am interested in how it can assist in bringing together makers and manufacturers, and supporting them to find innovative solutions.
What are the top three challenges for the future of your company?
1. To find a balance between development and delivery
2. Ensuring that we focus on bringing relevant projects to fruition and not having too many projects unfinished or not drawn to a conclusion
3. Ensuring that projects and products are optimised commercially – we are working on this!
Does you have any previous experience with innovation communities, acceleration programmes or intermediary bodies?
Yes, we were involved in the Beautiful Ideas Company’s LaunchPad accelerator programme. Having an evolving, concentrated group of makers as part of that scheme was invaluable in helping develop our products.
We’re also part of University of Liverpool Low Carbon Eco Innovation programme. Although, at times, the universities can be an ‘impenetrable behemoth’, we found the experience of having a team to help facilitate, alongside access to experts and equipment was amazing.
Do you have any previous experience with open manufacturing? Have you ever developed a product/solution in collaboration with someone applying an open manufacturing approach?
Yes, we have done this. What we found difficult was that everyone had different budgets, timelines, priorities, procedures and capacities. There’s a whole other level of processes that needs to be developed in order to make things as streamlined and efficient as possible for the development of the project. Open Maker is a work in progress! How can the OM programme help you facing the challenges, and what topics and kind of expertise are most you interested in?
Definitely in bringing as many relevant people together to share ideas and projects.
In nine to twelve months from now, what criteria will you use to assess how useful the OM programme was for you?
We’ll use the time to work to develop our submission – the criteria will be that the successful submission has a real impact on our collaborations and can be shared with others facing the same issues.
There is a relationship between the OpenMaker topics and the Industry 4.0 topic. What do you know and think about it?
We already totally support the idea of open source, sharing resources and working together. It’s fundamental to the way we work.
A group of more than 50 makers and manufacturers gathered at Liverpool’s state-of-the-art Sensor City for the OpenMaker launch evening. A collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, the centre bills itself as a global hub for sensor technologies; a collaboration space for people who want to come together to tap into the Internet of Things, using the development of sensors to spark innovation.
‘Sensors and the Internet of Things are driving the next wave of technological innovation,’ says its executive director, Alison Mitchell. ‘By connecting digital devices to the physical world around them, the impact of these emerging technologies on our data-driven society is limitless.
‘We understand how hard it is for businesses to collaborate. Big businesses need a spark that is sometimes only possible through collaboration,’ she said.
Using examples including sensors to determine if vulnerable people are dehydrated and at risk of falling, Sensor City tenant Terry Nelson, managing director of Liverpool-based Aqua Running International, took up the mantle. Having created a buoyancy bodysuit that allows anyone with injury to train in water with no impact, Aqua Running now works with Real Madrid, alongside a host of Premier League football teams. ‘Players can run and sprint in the pool weeks before they can train on land,’ he says. He also works with children with cerebral palsy, using the suit to promote correct biomechanics to give them confidence and security in the water, and allowing physiotherapists to work with them in a way not possible on dry land.
Nelson himself is a former LFC footballer, paratrooper and World Transport Games champion. With his own health problems, he showed a film of himself running in a swimming pool, just ten days after having his right leg amputated.
Finsa UK managing director Rafael Willisch followed, talking about collaboration between large and small businesses, using Ken Robinson’s ‘divergent thinking’ as an example of what small businesses can offer larger organisations. He used examples included Ikea and TaskRabbit to show how the organisation is moving away from the DIY model, and is using augmented reality to develop its services for customers.
Beautiful Ideas Company’s Erika Rushton rounded-up the evening by talking through the OpenMaker process, and highlighting examples of support, collaboration and developing an ‘entrepreneurial economy’. ‘It’s an exciting project – a fusing of scalable or replicable industrial processes with state-of-the-art technology, and the ingenuity and creativity of individuals or groups of makers. It will be through these new processes, ideas and institutions that a revolution in how things are made and manufactured comes about,’ she said.
Kirsten Little is a Liverpool-based artist and maker, who is involved with OpenMaker. With a Masters in Fine Art from Wimbledon College of Art, she makes collage-based art. Struggling to access the resources that were so abundant during her degree, Kirsten co-founded the maker space Make Liverpool on her return to her home city. She has worked with the Beautiful Ideas Company since its 2015 LaunchPad programme, which supported the development and expansion of Make Liverpool.
What do you make, and what technologies/tools do you use?
I work with ‘found’ materials, using traditional skills including metalwork, woodwork and casting. I use a lot of old photographs, and ‘lost’ objects, repurposing them into new items or artworks with new uses. Alongside skills like mig welding, casting and woodwork, I use photocopies and screen prints, inlaying print onto ceramics in a kiln. I’m a multi-disciplinary maker, and also a facilitator of makers.
I struggled to access resources like welding facilities, woodworking facilities and casting facilities once I left university, and began to find likeminded people to share resources. We set up Make Baltic for ‘clean’ making in 2013, but more and more demand for ‘dirty’ making led to the founding of Make Liverpool in March 2016, providing equipment based on makers’ needs.
Have you participated in associations and groups of makers, or collaborated with companies as a ‘freelance’ maker?
I completed a 12 month Artist in Residency at Liverpool Hope University in 2016, and am part of the North Docks community group, on the Ten Streets Liverpool advisory group and part of the Women’s Leadership Group Liverpool. I’m also the managing director of Make Liverpool, facilitating 65 residents and members with an eclectic skill set, including puppeteers, sculptors, furniture makers, leather upholsterers, artists and crafters.
Can you think of any specific projects, knowledge, or prototypes and products that you could share or would like to bring into this project?
I’d like to develop a maker’s app/website for each city, mapping out all of the maker spaces with the view of having multi-location membership.
I’m most interested in sharing the OpenMaker project with all the makers that I work with, to encourage them to participate and share innovation.
What is your experience of collaborating with companies – what are the key challenges and what works well?
I have five years’ experience of managing Make Liverpool, collaborating with start-up businesses, organisations and charities to encourage job creation, cultural growth and opportunities such as exhibitions and residency programmes.
Key challenges include connecting with the right networks and building good key relationships and working on a shoestring budget. To work well you need to be open to sharing ideas – not worrying about others stealing them. Open source ideas need developing alongside others. If you go to sector-led thing it brings the same type of people together, but you need additional people to make your idea a reality.
How can the OM programme help you facing the challenges, and what topics and kind of expertise are most you interested in?
Having connections with more people can positively push your idea to the forefront – you can’t hide your idea any more if there are people involved! Mentoring for users – to help businesses optimise their productivity, would also be interesting.
In nine to twelve months from now, what criteria will you use to assess how useful the OM programme was for you?
I’d like to see more engagement with makers and an increasing membership – we can do more monitoring and data collection through social media. It would also be good to monitor our impact on employment.
How do you feel about OpenMaker’s values and constraints, around openness and collaboration? What constraints can you see?
There is definitely a degree of separation – it seems like a different world. But just approaching them has opened my eyes and started the conversation!