Funding for project to fix the sustainable future of smart devices

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Researchers at the University of Nottingham are part of a project awarded £1.2 million to understand how to create a more circular and equitable digital economy, underpinned by reuse and repair.

The 2 year Fixing the Future: The Right to Repair and Equal-IoT’ project, has been funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will explore the societal inequalities created by poor sustainability, data protection, and cybersecurity in current consumer internet of things (IoT) devices.

The research is led by the University of Edinburgh with collaboration from researchers at the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, University of Nottingham and Lancaster University. The team will tackle the issue of IoT devices like smart speakers and watches going out of use and creating environmental consequences from e-Waste. They will aim to understand how to create a more circular and equitable digital economy, underpinned by reuse and repair.

The project draws together expertise in human computer interaction, design research, technology, law, ethics, and digital humanities to investigate how to build more equitable IoT devices that enable inclusive participation in the digital economy.

This will be achieved through an exciting programme of work over the next 24 months which:

  • Maps the changing legal and ethical landscape, particularly around shifting current IoT design practices and examining the role of the right to repair in supporting citizen needs.
  • Explores how to create the IoT Repair Shop installation with the Making Rooms Blackburn to understand issues faced by local citizens and to understand practical challenges of repairing IoT devices in the community.
  • Creates blueprint prototypes and user experiences that demonstrate how to design for repairability, to support IoT manufacturers to change current practices.
  • Designs a toolkit that will practically support development of more equitable futures when living with IoT by targeting needs of different citizens, governments, and industry stakeholders.

The research agenda will be closely co-created with citizens and a series of international research partners, including The Making Rooms, Blackburn; BBC Research & Development; Which?; NCC Group; the Canadian Government; and climate data focused artist Rachel Jacobs.

The explosion of IoT devices on the market and constant encouragement to upgrade is creating a range of sustainability and privacy issues that must be addressed in order to protect users and the environment. It’s a big task but as the technological landscape continues to evolve it’s vital we use our combined expertise to tackle these issues and ensure the future of IoT is sustainable and equal.
Dr Neelima Sailaja, University of Nottingham project lead

The project is led by Principal Investigator, Edinburgh Law School's Dr Lachlan Urquhart, together with a multidisciplinary team of investigators from across the Universities of Edinburgh (Dr Ewa Luger , Prof Melissa Terras , Dr Susan Lechelt), Lancaster (Dr Mike Stead , Dr Joseph Lindley , Prof Paul Coulton), Nottingham (Dr Neelima Sailaja , Prof Derek McAuley), and Napier (Dr Dimitrios Darzentas).

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More information is available from Dr Neelima Sailaja at the University of Nottingham on

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

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We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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