Transitioning from academic innovation to viable humanitarian technology: The next steps for the OpenFlexure project

Joe Knapper, Julian Stirling, Joel Collins, Samuel McDermott, Valerian Sanga, Paul Nyakyi, Grace Anyelwisye, Greg Austic, William Wadsworth, Catherine Mkindi, Richard Bowman

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding

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Academic interest in designing medical technology appropriate for Africa continues to grow, with funding available for innovations that answer complex questions. However, there is significant engineering work required to realise the promised impact of an innovation, even when it is shared as an Open Source design for others to build on. With academic innovation more highly prized by journals, funding bodies and academic institutions, this results in split priorities, and can lead to a difficult balance between the humanitarian aims of the project and pursuit of novel research. We present the OpenFlexure Microscope project as an example of an innovative academic project pushing the limits of 3D printed instrumentation. The microscope is already undergoing trials for malaria diagnosis, but significant product development is still necessary to transition the project from a prototype to a certified in-vitro diagnostic device. In this paper, we consider the engineering work that is needed to move from prototype to product, and how best to structure this work to support distributed manufacturing across Africa. We highlight the need to focus not just on the necessary engineering, but also on documenting this work so it can be understood and reproduced by any potential manufacturer.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 IST-Africa Conference (IST-Africa)
EditorsMiriam Cunningham, Paul Cunningham
Place of PublicationU. S. A.
ISBN (Electronic)9781905824670
ISBN (Print)978-1-6654-4830-7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021
Event2021 IST-Africa Conference, IST-Africa 2021 - Virtual, Online, South Africa
Duration: 10 May 202114 May 2021

Publication series

Name2021 IST-Africa Conference, IST-Africa 2021
ISSN (Print)2576-859X
ISSN (Electronic)2576-8581


Conference2021 IST-Africa Conference, IST-Africa 2021
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityVirtual, Online


  • Local manufacturing
  • Microscope
  • Product development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Decision Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Development
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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