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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W020564/1
Title: Pro2 Network+: From Prototyping to Production of Digital Devices
Principal Investigator: Fraser, Professor MC
Other Investigators:
Alexander, Professor J Finney, Dr J Marquardt, Dr N
Roudaut, Dr A Koleva, Professor B Hodges, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Aalborg University Aarhus University Air Giants Ltd
ARM Ltd Broadway Media Centre Business West
Carleton University ESTIA Eurocircuits (UK)
Folium Optics Ltd Grenoble Alpes University (UGA) Hardy & Ellis Inventions LTD
Linecross Ltd Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Micro:bit Educational Foundation
Microsoft National Composites Centre Saarland University
Silicon Press Ltd Stanford University UCL
University of Copenhagen University of Toulouse III Paul Sabatier Watershed Media Centre
Department: Computer Science
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2023 Ends: 31 December 2027 Value (£): 2,659,015
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Human-Computer Interactions Mobile Computing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Jan 2022 DE Network Plus Interview Panel Announced
10 Nov 2021 DE Network Plus Prioritisation Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The UK and global research and development communities have made tremendous strides in electronic device prototyping. Platforms that support conventional electronics have become well established, and the emerging potential of printed electronics and related additive technologies is clear. Together these support fast and versatile prototyping of the form and function of digital devices that underpin novel interactive data-driven experiences, including the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technologies and more. However, challenges remain to realise their full potential. Interactive devices prototyped in labs and makerspaces implement novel capabilities and materials which require holistic manufacturing capability beyond simulation of conventional electronics. Even for conventional bench designs, to make the transition from prototype to product they need to be suitably robust, safe, long-lived, performant and cost-effective to deliver value as products - whether as a series of one-off mass customised devices, low-volume batches, or mass-produced artefacts. Unfortunately, the transition from prototype to production is not a natural one for end users; many ideas with potential don't progress beyond the first few designs. Democratising access to device production is the key next step in underpinning scalability and entrepreneurship in digital systems.

We propose a Network+ of universities, research organisations and commercial enterprises who share the common goal of improving the transition from prototyping to production of digital devices. The Pro2 community will build upon the design and fabrication expertise of its researchers and practitioners to facilitate a deep synthesis of established principles, techniques and technologies and develop new concepts that span computer science, engineering and manufacturing. We will complement the on-going global investment into a variety of 'digital manufacturing' topics - including the UK's Made Smarter initiative - by tackling the challenge of progressively and cost-effectively transitioning from unconventional and single digital device prototypes, through tens of copies that can verify a design and validate utility, to batch production of hundreds to thousands of units.

In prototyping, as additive manufacture and printed electronics converge further, in unconventional fields such as soft robotics and 4D printing, we need to identify how to integrate and optimise tools into workflows that support digital behaviour across materials, scales and functionalities. In production, smoothing the path from one-off microcontroller prototypes to scale-up is a significant challenge, and requires new processes and tools as well as reconfiguration of business models and services. Our vision for 'organic scaling' from prototype to production will allow faster exploration and exploitation of these digital device concepts and applications. This will accelerate the adoption of IoT, the growth of new consumer electronics markets, and more generally underpin the data-driven digital transformation of many industries. It will enable new research directions, create new business opportunities and drive economic growth.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk