Andre Chagas leads the Open Research Technologies Hub at the University of Sussex and has recently co-authored the UKRN primer on open source hardware. In this piece, he outlines the background and rationale for the Hub, and reaches out to others who might want to join this initiative

The University of Sussex has recently launched the Open Research Technologies Hub (ORTH-US). This initiative is set to support Open Research and Innovation, offering an array of training and development opportunities for both its members and external visitors.

At the core of ORTH-US is the aim to create a generation of open research / open source experts. Trainees will gain essential skills to develop and implement cost-effective, region-appropriate tools for research and education. More than just technical skills, trainees will also be immersed in the principles of business, innovation, and project management. This holistic approach ensures the sustainability of the initiatives they undertake.

Perhaps, this will be a little clearer with a couple of project examples already happening at the Hub:

  1. To tackle plastic waste in laboratory settings and at the university in general we working to set up a micro plastic recycling unit at Sussex. The unit is inspired by the Precious Plastic initiative, which freely shares know-how and designs for machinery for recycling plastics locally. Running for over 10 years, the community members of this global initiative have collectively recycled over 595 000 tonnes of plastics, generating millions of dollars in revenue for the different communities. By setting up an interdisciplinary student-driven unit at Sussex, we provide a solution for plastic waste on campus, while aligning with the university’s goal of recycling 50% of its waste by 2025, and being carbon neutral by 2035. Moreover, we provide students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge they are gaining directly at university, as well as working towards making the project self-sustaining and leaving a positive footprint.
  2. In a collaboration with Yobe State University, and the Biomedical Research Training Centre in Nigeria, we are leveraging tried and tested open source microscopes, specifically those from the Open Flexure project, to detect Malaria across Yobe State. Our approach considers the local realities in Yobe State, such as intermittent power supply, cost and logistical difficulties in importing traditional microscopes from international suppliers, as well as the set-up of the public health system. By deploying open source microscopes, we circumvent these and other problem since all plans on how to build, maintain and develop the microscopes are freely available online. This allows us to train local people to master all the skills needed to deploy the microscopes. Another advantages of Open Flexure are that the devices are portable, battery driven, have been described in peer reviewed publications as capable of detecting malaria parasites in blood samples [1–3], and are backed by a thriving and welcoming global community. Empowered with this new knowledge, our colleagues in in Yobe will be able to train other health agents, ramping up the number of microscopes and so detection in a distributed, locally-driven way.

We are currently in conversation with universities in Brazil and USA about collaborative projects that would see them send colleagues to be trained at the Hub and become part of our network. We would very much like to extend our work with partners in the UK, so that together we can have a strong local community of hubs enable us to collaborate on tackling local issues.

In summary, ORTH-US offers:

  1. Comprehensive Training: The Hub provides extensive training in open science and open-source development. This includes mastery of necessary tools, methods, ways to enhance project discoverability and community interaction.
  2. A Central Collaboration Point: ORTH-US serves as a nexus for trainees and alumni, promoting the exchange of knowledge, supporting ongoing projects, and fostering interactions among different hubs.
  3. Networking Opportunities: The Hub acts as a contact point for various networks, encouraging collaborations and exchanges of ideas and resources.
  4. Facilities for Development: Equipped with state-of-the-art tools and equipment, the Hub offers an ideal environment for project development.

The impact of ORTH-US extends beyond university boundaries. Internally, it aims to integrate open-science practices within the University of Sussex, enhancing the capacity of students and staff. Externally, it envisions becoming the nucleus of a network of Open Research Technologies Hubs, imparting training on open development and solutions for academic and non-academic challenges.

This initiative is not just about developing tools and techniques; it’s about empowering communities to address their unique challenges and fostering a diverse, vibrant research and innovation landscape. By training the trainers, ORTH-US aspires to create a ripple effect, spreading the ethos of open research far and wide.

Please do get in touch with Andre M Chagas via email


  1. Sharkey JP, Foo DCW, Kabla A, Baumberg JJ, Bowman RW. A one-piece 3D printed flexure translation stage for open-source microscopy. Review of Scientific Instruments. 2016;87: 025104. doi:10.1063/1.4941068
  2. McDermott S, Ayazi F, Collins J, Knapper J, Stirling J, Bowman R, et al. Multi-modal microscopy imaging with the OpenFlexure Delta Stage. Opt Express, OE. 2022;30: 26377–26395. doi:10.1364/OE.450211
  3. Collins JT, Knapper J, Stirling J, Mduda J, Mkindi C, Mayagaya V, et al. Robotic microscopy for everyone: the OpenFlexure Microscope. BioRxiv. 2019; 861856. doi:10.1101/861856

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash