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Aston University establishes Design Factory Birmingham as a global innovation hub for Midlands

Birmingham has become the latest city to join a global network of design and digital consultancies set up to solve real world challenges through effective problem-solving.

Design Factory Birmingham will be based at Aston University, one of just two hubs in the UK outside of London.


The city officially joined the Design Factory Global Network on Wednesday 14 February and as a result Aston University will open the doors to its state-of-the-art facilities to other organisations.

Shared understanding and common ways of working enable Design Factories in the network to collaborate efficiently across cultures, time zones and organisational boundaries fostering radical innovations.


Businesses, industry partners, entrepreneurs, staff and students will be able to collaborate on projects that will involve technologies such as 3D printers and design software.


The University will be sharing its expertise in artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, data science and web, app and graphic design to boost the local economy.


Currently there are 39 innovation hubs in 25 countries across five continents based in universities and research organisations.


The Design Factory will include a space named after the late Dame Margaret Weston, former director of the Science Museum. Dame Margaret had studied electrical engineering at one of Aston University’s predecessor institutions and went on to be the first woman appointed to lead a national museum. She left a generous gift to Aston University in her will, which will be commemorated in the Birmingham Design Factory in honour of her engineering background.

The Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Aston University, Professor Aleks Subic said: “The Design Factory Birmingham is another key milestone in our ambition to be a leader in science, technology, and innovation, driving socio-economic transformation in our city and region.  It is important to the Midlands because it will make a direct contribution to innovation led growth in partnership with industry and businesses.  However, this is not only a local launch but also a global launch as Design Factory Birmingham is a global innovation hub, and an integral part of the Design Factory Global Network involving 39 innovation hubs around the world.”


The head of the Design Factory Global Network Felipe Gárate from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland attended the official launch in Birmingham. He said: “I am delighted to welcome Aston University as our latest member.


“We are on a mission to create change in the world of learning and research through passion-based culture and effective problem-solving.


“Shared understanding and common ways of working enable Design Factories in the network to collaborate efficiently across cultures, time zones and organisational boundaries fostering radical innovations.”


The launch event was used to showcase design projects that are already running and companies attending were given the chance to meet placement students who could boost their existing expertise.


Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Professor Tony Clarke said “This unique space on campus will bring together multi-disciplinary teams of hands-on innovators, collaborative thinkers and creators.


“We will be delivering a wide range of services including software application development, product design, creating protypes using a variety of technologies including laser and water cutting, digital and design training courses, and helping companies obtain innovation grants for projects.”


As a member of the global network the Birmingham Design Factory at Aston University will participate in two global design challenges - one run by McDonalds and the other run by the Ford Motor Company.

There are 39 Design Factory hubs around the world


In the UK there are three; London, Birmingham and Manchester.

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