Distributed manufacturing & COVID-19: Is crisis a window of opportunity for sustainable development in the Global South?

Authors

  • Lucia Corsini University of Cambridge
  • James Moultrie University of Cambridge

Abstract

Shortages of critical items during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a widespread mobilisation of open, local and distributed manufacturing. In this paper, we examine the potential systemic impacts of these activities in the Global South, using the Multi-Level Perspective from literature on sustainability transitions. We conduct a longitudinal case study of a non-governmental organization that has been pioneering distributed manufacturing solutions in the Global South for almost a decade. We illustrate that the pandemic is a major landscape event that is having profound impacts on the existing socio-technical regime and niche levels. We show how niches mature over time, and that the pandemic has created an opportunity for niche replication and alignment. We present an initial analysis of factors that support and resist the path dependency of the existing regime. Thus, we speculate about the possibility to transition away from a development model predicated on the transfer of technology from the North to the South, to an endogenous model of sustainable development that is underpinned by local design and production in the South. Here we show that crisis creates a key window of opportunity for sustainable development in the Global South through the development of distributed manufacturing networks.

Author Biographies

Lucia Corsini, University of Cambridge

Department of Engineering, Design Management Group, Research Associate

James Moultrie, University of Cambridge

Department of Engineering, Design Management Group, Senior Lecturer

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Published

2021-04-09

Issue

Section

Reflections on specific design responses to the ongoing crisis