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Dr Timothy Whitehead - Aston University. Birmingham, , GB

Dr Timothy Whitehead

Senior Lecturer in Product Design | Aston University


Dr Whitehead's interest is in developing approaches to improve the design of products distributed in low income countries.









Dr Timothy Whitehead is a Senior Lecturer in Product Design with a research interest in developing tools and approaches to improve the design of products distributed in low-income countries. Timothy has developed a unique research area focusing on sustainable, circular solutions to global challenges using frontier technology, such as 3D Printing.

Timothy has led several projects funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, which utilises design methods and new technology to improve the livelihood of those living on less than $1 a day.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Industrial Design

Design for International Development

3D Printing ‎

Circular Economy

Sustainable Design

User Centred Design

Accomplishments (1)

DesRes: Best Research Presentation (professional)


Education (2)

Loughborough University: PhD 2015

Enhancing New Product Development in Low Income Economies

Loughborough University: BA, Industrial Design and Technology 2010

Affiliations (2)

  • Institute of Engineering Designers : Member
  • Royal Society of Arts : Fellow

Media Appearances (1)

Aston University and partners design “unique and low cost” rugby wheelchair

Design Week  online


The year-long project was funded by the British Council with the aim of connecting universities in different countries. Aston University senior lecturer in product, mechanical, and biomedical design and design engineering Dr Timothy Whitehead led the project along with Dr George Torrens from Loughborough University and Professor Deon de Beer from Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

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Research Grants (6)

Inclusive Innovation: Supporting people with disabilities through design and entrepreneurship

British Council £120,000


Circular Plastic: Utilising frontier technology and user-centred design to add value to plastic waste, facilitating entrepreneurship

EPSRC - GCRF £150,000


Digital Innovations for Transitioning to a Circular plastic Economy - (DITCh Plastic)

EPSRC - GCRF £148,738


Circular Digital Manufacturing: A toolkit to disseminate a circular economy approach to 3D Printing with plastic waste in Kenya and surrounding African countries

GCRF Institutional Block Grant £42,333


Wealth from Waste: Value-added products for Chennai waste pickers

Royal Academy of Engineers GCRF Frontiers Scheme 4 £30,000


Raising awareness of inclusive crafts: building capacity and self-sufficiency of communication within the Charity SAFOD and the Countries of SA

AHRC GCRF Follow-on Funding £71,244


Articles (8)

Bottle house: utilising appreciative inquiry to develop a user acceptance model

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

This paper develops a novel user-acceptance model for circular solutions to housing design. The model has been systematically developed from a case study of an upcycled plastic bottle building in a low-income community in Nigeria. It is common practice to use participatory approaches to consult end users in communities, typically after design concepts have been proposed and conceptualised.

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Sustainable transformation of low-income communities: multidisciplinary approach to scalable solutions

World Journal of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development

These goals highlight the need for a radical transformation of low-income communities in the least developed countries. The issue extols the virtue of approaching the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the inter-and transdisciplinary perspectives approach for a holistic solution to sustainable development challenges in low-income countries.

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Local or Global? Approaches for New Product Development in Low Income Countries

The Design Journal

To increase opportunity and quality of life for people living in poverty, governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) sell products to low-income countries. These are typically products that can make fundamental changes to the quality of life such as water filters and solar lighting. However, there has been limited research to support the new product development (NPD) process for this unique category of products which has led to instances of sub-optimal solutions.

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Recycling of plastics for low cost construction


The impact of waste plastics has been a key part of the environmental discourse in recent years and prominent environmentalists/sustainable development scholars have called for urgent action. This article discusses some of the innovative ways plastics have been used in low cost construction in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). It highlights the main benefits of using plastics in construction as well as identifies current gaps in the literature. Utilising plastics for low cost construction has implications for sustainable waste management and adequate housing in Low and Middle Income Communities of LMICs.

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Bottle house: A case study of transdisciplinary research for tackling global challenges

Habitat International

Globalisation has brought a number of challenges to the fore, particularly those problems which require collaboration, innovation and capability development between nations. There are some complex issues piquing the attention of researchers with respect to sustainable development, such as, waste management, climate change, and access to amenities, housing or education. Non-Governmental Organisations, Institutions, governments and others working in the field of international development have been grappling with these difficulties for decades.

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The anatomy of change in urban infrastructure landscapes: cooking landscapes in Maputo, Mozambique

Landscape Research

Rapid urbanisation and global environmental transformations require rethinking the material and social configurations of cities. The concept of ‘transitions’ has gained traction to guide such processes of infrastructure change towards net-zero, resilient societies both in academic and policy conversations. In this paper, we examine what notions of change are deployed in these debates. Specifically, we argue that transition theory conceptualises change as triggered by intentional actions and innovations by emphasising the functional drivers leading change. While deliberate actions cause changes, not all change follows strategic intent. Instead, transitions also depend on contingent relations between social actors and material objects, which cannot always be planned or anticipated. The concept of ‘urban infrastructure landscape’ helps reveal the non-strategic aspects of transitions. The example of improved cookstoves in Maputo, Mozambique, demonstrates the change envisaged in current energy policy and the changes on the ground.

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Digital innovations for transitioning to circular plastic value chains in Africa

Africa Journal of Management

The paper analyzes the current state of plastic value chains in Africa and the potential of digital innovations adopted by African entrepreneurs to contributing to a circular plastic economy. We provide an overview of plastic waste trade to African countries and an assessment of existing digital solutions that can support the transition to a circular plastic economy. The findings show that various digital innovations are being applied by entrepreneurs including web-based solutions, mobile apps and 3D printing. The case studies also show that multinational companies, especially consumer facing brands, are major players in the national plastic value chains in African countries, acting as seed funders for start-ups as well as buyers of recycled plastics. Current initiatives that are underway are positive signs that changes are in progress to address the environmental and social impacts of plastics value chains in Africa. However, to achieve a transition to sustainable circular value chains, changes at policy level will be required to enable scaling-up of local start-up businesses, address regulatory barriers to digital solutions, create markets for recycled plastic materials and implement extended producer responsibility regulations.

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Case study: decent work and economic growth (SDG8)

Design for Global Challenges and Goals

The use of creative product design to generate employment opportunities through materials-driven supply chains

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