Co-production of Physical Products and Value Co-creation - Scalability in the Wild

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Engineering Computer Science and Maths


Our wish through this Research in the Wild call is to take a significant step towards collective user creativity in physical products, concurrently generating added value and superior user experience. User communities can collaboratively produce (co-produce) and actively support, vote and enjoy products, and experience co-created product value, though this predominantly resides in a digital media and virtual environment. Many users have yet to interact with manufacturers to co-produce tangible physical products largely because of design and production complexity issues, although this is an area of rapidly growing interest and one which are seek to address in this project. This project aims to break down these barriers, and implement and evaluate user based design, production and web service tools for users and manufacturers to co-produce physical products and co-create user added value and bring these tools to a viable commercial exploitation position. The project will utilise a flexible chocolate Additive Layer Manufacturing (ChocALM) technique and integrate it with mass production technology, thereby engaging a large numbers of users to support co-design and co-production of chocolate gift products. This would help to invigorate a substantial UK share in this global market. This project therefore will boost our experience of a sustainable digital economy, grow the service capability of manufacturers, and bring creativity and innovation to a user society.

Planned Impact

This research has significant scope to bring benefit to a mass audience of potential users increasingly aware of and educated in the idea of creating physical products and to many UK and global service providers and manufacturers increasingly wish to have an effective approach to the delivery of user centric products. This is particularly important for UK manufacturers and service producers such as Cadbury as they have to increasingly rely on more personalised products and services in order to create new markets and differentiate from low cost mass production in the Far East. Whilst the emphasis of this proposal is to have a transformative effect in the chocolate gift sector, our aspirations are to demonstrate the benefits of co-creativity and co-production as an exciting personalised experience bringing creativity and innovation to many other industry sectors such as jewellery, toy and homeware. We therefore expect many UK manufacturers and service providers will be able to enhance their service capability and work with many users to generate added value for both personalised and popular physical products thereby reducing the investment and market risk for new product development. The engagement of the chocolate user group and public user group to implement and test this new research idea will ensure that the outcome of the research can be easily adopted by many users to their considerable benefit. Project information will be disseminated through the ChocALM website whilst the design tool and service system prototype will be immediately available on the web for users to trial and test. Similar to the ChocALM project, the university will generate media and press articles in regional and national news papers and technology websites and magazines. Our ambition is to develop our research to a stage where we can demonstrate a sufficiently robust user-based design tool, and web-service system that we would eventually patent and / or license. Our interactions with collaborative partners engaged in this project provide us with the feedback needed to ensure that any development will be robust. The partners will attend project meetings and offer advice to the project. On top of the support the project obtains from its external relationships, the University will put in place a process to evaluate the future commercial potential of our design toolkit and web service system, for chocolate products as well as their adoption for other consumer products. This process will be carried out in conjunction with our Research & Knowledge Transfer (RKT) Office which supports the University's IP and commercialisation activities. With a clear vision to promote ChocALM and new digital technology, the PI and Co-Is have secured key industrial support from the project partners and have supervised the early development of the ChocALM prototype since 2007. In addition, all academic investigators have extensive knowledge transfer and public communication experience to work with industrial partners and public users. By closely engaging with Delcam and Cadbury in this project, two excellent UK-based global companies will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in a clear exploitation opportunity for these developing technologies, and to disseminate project outcomes amongst their users and customers.
Description We have discovered the way and approach to engage users in co-creating physical products. The finding reveals that both the technology tools such as easy-to-design tools and 3D printing technology and business methodology such as community co-creation play an important role for the co-creation of physical products.
Exploitation Route The findings have been widely disseminated to general public for them to understand and appreciate the potential of co-creating physical product via new 3D printing and design technology and business models.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

Description The project has developed technology tool and understanding for the co-creation of physical products. Its research via a case study on 3D chocolate printing resulted in the broad dissemination via public release (i.e. BBC news) and media (i.e. over 1 millions views on youtube). A spin off company - Choc Edge - was formed to exploit the outcome commercially.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Company Name Choc Edge Ltd 
Description The project led the formation of spin off company -Choc Edge- to explore the 3D chocolate printing and the related design and website tools. 
Year Established 2012 
Impact This company has adopted the technology and new business concepts generated from this research. It has become a pioneering company in introducing 3D food printing solution. Recently, the company has exhibited their new products and services at the 3Dprintingshow London and Paris and raised significant interest from 3D printing and confectionery industries.
Description 3D chocolate printing in BBC one show 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The 3D chocolate printing was demonstrated to print personalised chocolate for celebrity.

The participation of this BBC show and the demonstration of the technology developed over this grant for making gift for celebrity have broadly disseminate this research to general public. So it has informed many people about this research and its resulting technology and application.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014