An EU-funded research project wants to find regulations and other obstacles that hinder digital Do-It-Yourself companies. A consortium of universities and research institutes in Manchester, Milan, London, Thessaloniki and other cities intends to help small enterprises benefit from digital DIY, help policy makers and prepare teachers and educators.
The Digital Do-It-Yourself (DiDIY) project wants to explore the general attitude toward digital Do-It-Yourself, find practical obstacles - including those caused by regulations - and discover new opportunities.
The project argues that technologies such as 3D printing, with its low cost prototyping and manufacturing from digital specifications, smart sensors and tiny computers will offer new possibilities to SMEs. However, they also suspect that these projects could possibly violate insurance rules, consumer law or environmental law. Nevertheless, that will not stop tinkerers from inventing new medical devices, devising agricultural applications or selling artisanal products, the consortium argues.
“We want to make an inventory of the legal obstructions and analyse all issues that could hinder or help growth of this new sector”, says Marco Fioretti, who works for the Free Knowledge Institute, one of the consortium partners. “Some of the existing rules will simply be out of date and in other cases society will have to communicate its concerns to the builders, sellers and users of such new products.”
There are many projects involving new digital DIY technologies, but large-scale implementations that are tested against regulation are thin on the ground, Fioretti says. “SMEs have yet to start selling custom-printed prostheses, robotic devices for seeding and irrigation or garments combining sensors, micro-computers and new materials. But it will happen, and we want to make sure the SMEs and society are ready.”
The group also hopes to promote the spread of these digital techniques, by disseminating the results of the research project and by actively approaching education networks, trade associations and other stakeholders.
The DiDIY project is funded in part by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 work programme. The consortium started in January and the project is to last until mid-2017.