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Ethical hackathon for improved R&D capacity

Research and development (R&D) is key to the economic development of low/middle-income countries (LMIC). While considerable effort has been made to improve R&D capacity in these regions, many research facilities still struggle with resource scarcity. A key area of scarcity results from the lack of “core funding” to maintain and upgrade natural/life science laboratory facilities. A common problem involves the difficulty of acquiring and maintaining the small pieces of software-based equipment that are vital for daily research activities. The absence of this equipment slows research progress and the time taken to train and graduate students as well as affecting the range of research streams available to scientists in these settings. 


Research conducted in the field of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), supported by the EPSRC, has demonstrated how societal and ethical considerations may be integrated into processes of innovation. This results in context-relevant research and innovation with and for society. In this project, we will apply an RRI approach to address research scarcity in LMIC. Rather than attempting to overcome resource shortages through one-off capital investment, we will pilot a novel equipment hackathon that will design and produce equipment in situ and promote long term skills development amongst local researchers. The hackathon will bring together teams of multidisciplinary groups of students from computer science, engineering, natural/life science, social science and economics. They will be challenged to design and produce software-based laboratory equipment. Their work will be assessed by local expert judges according to a number of categories including simplicity of design and cost-effectiveness, ethics and responsible design principles, contextual appropriateness and user-responsiveness.


This pilot hackathon will be run at the University of Zimbabwe in early 2018. The winning designs will be publicised via the NEPAD-SANBio network in 13 southern African countries. This will stimulate discussion on equipment shortages and creative, local solutions that can stimulate R&D in LMIC regions.


Find out more here.

Principal Investigator


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