Collaborative OU Proposal - Stories of Change: Exploring Energy and Community in the Past, Present and Future

Project: Research council

Project Details


The world's manufacturing economy has been transformed by the phenomenon of globalisation, with benefits for economies of scale, operational flexibility, risk sharing and access to new markets. It has been at the cost of a loss of manufacturing and other jobs in western economies, loss of core capabilities and increased risks of disruption in the highly interconnected and interdependent global systems. The resource demands and environmental impacts of globalisation have also led to a loss of sustainability. New highly adaptable manufacturing processes and techniques capable of operating at small scales may allow a rebalancing of the manufacturing economy. They offer the possibility of a new understanding of where and how design, manufacture and services should be carried out to achieve the most appropriate mix of capability and employment possibilities in our economies but also to minimise environmental costs, to improve product specialisation to markets and to ensure resilience of provision under natural and socio-political disruption. This proposal brings together an interdisciplinary academic team to work with industry and local communities to explore the impact of this re-distribution of manufacturing (RDM) at the scale of the city and its hinterland, using Bristol as an example in its European Green Capital year, and concentrating on the issues of resilience and sustainability. The aim of this exploration will be to develop a vision, roadmap and research agenda for the implications of RDM for the city, and at the same time develop a methodology for networked collaboration between the many stakeholders that will allow deep understanding of the issues to be achieved and new approaches to their resolution explored. The network will study the issues from a number of disciplinary perspectives, bringing together experts in manufacturing, design, logistics, operations management, infrastructure, resilience, sustainability, engineering systems, geographical sciences, mathematical modelling and beyond. They will consider how RDM may contribute to the resilience and sustainability of a city in a number of ways: firstly, how can we characterise the economic, social and environmental challenges that we face in the city for which RDM may contribute to a solution? Secondly, what are the technical developments, for example in manufacturing equipment and digital technologies, that are enablers for RDM, and what are their implications for a range of manufacturing applications and for the design of products and systems? Thirdly, what are the social and political developments, for example in public policy, in regulation, in the rise of social enterprise or environmentalism that impact on RDM and what are their implications? Fourthly, what are the business implications, on supply networks and logistics arrangements, of the re-distribution? Finally, what are the implications for the physical and digital infrastructure of the city? In addition, the network will, through the way in which it carries out embedded focused studies, explore mechanisms by which interdisciplinary teams may come together to address societal grand challenges and develop research agendas for their solution. These will be based on working together using a combination of a Collaboratory - a centre without walls - and a Living Lab - a gathering of public-private partnerships in which businesses, researchers, authorities, and citizens work together for the creation of new services, business ideas, markets, and technologies.
Effective start/end date29/04/1431/12/17

Collaborative partners


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


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