Paul Myers: streamlining and efficiency are critical to development when you’re collaborating

Paul Myers: streamlining and efficiency are critical to development when you’re collaborating


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.

Farm Urban

OpenMaker launches at Sensor City

OpenMaker launches at Sensor City


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.

The application deadline for OpenMaker is October 18, and you have to sign up to get involved! Find out more by completing this quick, easy sign-up form…