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In this workshop, we will explore many examples of open technologies and their implications through exciting talks. The Workshop will be held on 21 Oct in the DPO Room, Department of Engineering.

Opening address

Alexandre Kabla, senior lecturer in mechanics of biological materials in the Department of Engineering.

Alexandre characterises the role of mechanical forces and physical constraints in the dynamics of large cell populations using experimental design, data analysis and modelling.


Rafael Pezzi, UFRGS, Centre for Academic Technologies, Brazil, 

Prof. Rafael Pezzi is a physicist working on the promotion of knowledge freedom and collaboration on all aspects of science and education. Since 2012, Rafael coordinates the Centro de Tecnologia Acadêmica (CTA) at the Institute of Physics of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil. The center is focused on the development of free and open source technologies and its applications on science and education.

Rafael is also engaged on the upgrade of the A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The ALICE experiment study the properties of the Quark-Gluon-Plasma, a state of matter obtained at extremely high temperature and densities, through the collision of relativistic heavy ions.

'Emerging openness in science: from open-access to open-source hardware'

The practice of science is marked by several transitions which are usually driven by new discoveries. Nowadays we are witnessing a transformation driven by new tools, communication capabilities, and sharing practices that are usually associated with Open Science. A new mode of intellectual production and dissemination is emerging where not only the results of scientific discoveries are publicly available for use and reuse, but also its methods and tools. This talk will highlight parallels of communication and evolutionary biology and present free and open source hardware as an eminent transformation on the practice of science.  


Anna Lowe Kumasi Hive makerspace, Ghana.

Anna's background includes running a factory, a stint as managing director of a tech start-up, and nearly a decade of supply chain consulting for multinational pharmaceutical companies and later the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She became convinced that digital fabrication and miniaturisation of manufacturing technologies offer the possibility for less developed economies to leapfrog to a new supply chain model - of networked local manufacturing. Anna moved to Ghana to co-found Kumasi Hive, a makerspace that supports innovators to build businesses out of their ideas. In 2016 she became one of the founding members of the MakerNet consortium, created to explore business models and open digital tools for local manufacturing around the world. She is now leading the creation of a new organisation to take this work forwards.

'Open Infrastructure for Local Manufacturing'

Imagine if when an oxygen flow meter breaks in a clinic in Kenya, instead of the machine being useless, they just get a local maker to produce a spare part from an online catalogue of open designs. Imagine if a refugee living in a camp could access a list of business models that have worked in similar situations, including open designs for making products that the NGO running the camp needs to buy for the inhabitants. Imagine if a government, placing an order for products for its schools or hospitals across the country, could place one order and have that order distributed across tens or hundreds of local manufacturers. All of them able to make things to the same design and the same quality standards with minimal transaction costs.

This is the MakerNet concept. This talk will describe the work done so far, discuss some of the challenges, and outline the route forwards – including how you can get involved.


Brenda Parker, Biochemical Engineering, UCL and Research Associate at the Algal Biotechnology Consortium and Paolo Bombelli, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge collaborate on a citizen science project which aims to enhance our knowledge of micro-algae cultivation by inviting universities, schools and members of the general public to participate in a data collection on outdoor micro-algal growth in multiple locations across the UK.

'The Big Algal Open Experiment'

Paulo and Brenda have have devised a citizen science project called the “Big Algae Open Experiment”. They have developed an open-source airlift bioreactor that can be used by participants to cultivate microalgae under natural lighting conditions. This is designed to be cheap to manufacture and simple to build and operate. They have also developed a visual method of measuring cell yield that does not rely upon expensive laboratory equipment, instead using a machine learning algorithm to analyse photos taken of the cultures with cell-phones and relate the colour of the culture to the concentration of the cells it contains. These are made publicly available giving participants the tools they need to perform the experiment.


Marie-LouiseSPOMAN Open Science Community

Marie-Louise coordinates the SPOMAN Open Science Community which fosters  university-industry interaction. The community translates the manufacturing sector’s need for new smart materials (e.g. reversible and sustainable materials) into basic research projects. The members actively share data, equipment, knowledge and results with each other and the rest of the world and companies are offered a risk-free platform to explore the value proposition of basic research to industrial innovation. SPOMAN Open Science takes legal measures to ensure that the direct output of the projects can not be patented – such as concepts for new materials and technologies. However anyone is free to protect the specific applications of the results for e.g. product development. 

'Brokering trust – how open science can benefit both industry and academia'

Aarhus University and 18 manufacturing companies have joined forces in finding new classes of smart polymer materials and technologies – and they share the results with the world free of charge. The open collaboration resembles a knowledge based community. Although at a very early stage, the community already shows promise to yield long-term financial benefits for both academia and industry. These benefits seem to be closely linked to the trust that arises between partners in a no-fee, open and informal collaborative set-up.

Tobey Wenzel, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge, and founder of the Journal of Open Hardware

Tobey is a biophysicist investigating the function and control of biological cells at technological interfaces e.g. in microbial solar cells and microfluidics. Beyond his own research projects, he has pushed for a modern open source approach to the the development of hardware in experimental disciplines. He started the hardware documentation tool DocuBricks and founded the open access Journal of Open Hardware. He is also currently a Mozilla Open Lead.


'Make it work - share and publish Open Science Hardware'

Do we really need new tools for hardware documentation and publication? Open Hardware works differently than Free and Open Source Software in several regards, but if documented and shared appropriately it can lead to better science and higher project impact. Benefits include more visibility, enhanced experimental reproducibility, lower hand-over losses in the lab, lower cost, user accessibility, data-control, and external contributions to key laboratory tools. The talk offers practical advise on how to get involved in Open Science Hardware, and what to consider when sharing and publishing outcomes.



The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, including researchers, commercial partners and external collaborators.