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Dr Michael Stead

Lecturer in Sustainable Design Futures

Design for Sustainability, More Than Human-Centred Design, Designing for Transitions, Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction, Circular Economy, Circular Product-Service-Systems, Cradle to Cradle, Biodesign, Net Zero Infrastructures, Philosophy of Technology, Co-Design, Participatory Design


  • Democratising Innovation
  • Design Fiction
  • Design for Sustainability
  • Design Futures
  • Digital Interactions
  • Ethics Through Design
  • Games Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Open Design
  • Post-human Design
  • Research through Design
  • Socially Responsible Design
  • Speculative Design

To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now.” E.F. Schumacher – Small Is Beautiful

Michael is Lecturer in Sustainable Design Futures at Lancaster University’s School of Design and the Imagination Design Research Lab. He is the School of Design’s Admissions Tutor, a Fellow of the AdvanceHE Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and a Curriculum Education Development Academy (CEDA) mentor. He is a member of Lancaster University’s Impact Accelerator Executive Board, its Faculty of Arts & Social Science/Lancaster Management School’s Research Ethics Committee, and its Faculty of Arts & Social Science’s Sustainability Knowledge Exchange group. He leads the Imagination Sustainable Design Futures Special Interest Group with Sejal Changede.

Michael’s current research applies and advances approaches including Research through DesignSpeculative Design, Co-Design and More-than-Human Design to prototype and evaluate radical new visions for sustainable futures. In doing so, his research critically and creatively interrogates the evolving relationship between emerging data-driven technologies and key sustainability challenges such as Net Zero 2050 and the Circular Economy.

From energy production through manufacturing to within the home, emerging so-called ‘smart’ data-driven technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Fabrication and are increasingly being embraced throughout society, yet the wider environmental impacts of this rapid shift are little understood.

To explore these issues, Michael is developing innovative design-led interdisciplinary approaches and tools in collaboration with industry, policymakers and publics which raise awareness and support the adoption of sustainable and equitable data-driven technologies and related practices. With emphasis on the responsible decentralisation and democratisation of technologies, his research investigates cross-cutting themes including Right-to-Repair, Data-driven Sustainability, Distributed Manufacturing and Post-scarcity Economies.

PhD supervision

Michael welcomes enquiries from students interested in researching new ways for designing and adopting more sustainable technologies, practices and infrastructures across society. This work will contribute to our better understanding of the deepening relationship between sustainability issues (environmental governance, social equity and economic resilience) and emergent technologies (like the Internet of Things, Edge Computing, Digital Fabrication and Artificial Intelligence) and how this relationship is impacting climate change now and into the future. Such research could draw upon and advance research fields including Design for Sustainability, Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction, More Than Human-Centred Design, Designing for Transitions, Cradle to Cradle theory and Biodesign.

Research Grants

As Principal Investigator, Michael has been collaborating with partners on the following funded projects:

EPSRC Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub funded InterNET ZERO: Towards Resource Responsible Trustworthy Autonomous Systems project (£249K) – in collaboration with Nottingham (computing) and Bristol (science & technology studies) colleagues and partners Energy Systems Catapult, The Making Rooms and Subak, this project focusses on co-designing visions and pathways for future, more resource responsible and trustworthy autonomous Internet technologies built on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

EPSRC Equitable Digital Society funded Fixing the Future: The Right-to-Repair and Equal-IoT project (£389K) combines research expertise from design (Imagination), HCI (Nottingham), technology law and ethics (Edinburgh) and the digital humanities (Napier) in collaboration with partners The Making Rooms, BBC Research & Development, Which? and NCC to investigate how we can collectively design, build and sustain more repairable and equitable electronic IoT devices as part of growing circular, digital economies across society.

AHRC IAA funded Generation Fix project (£18K) is developing, with partners The Making Rooms, a practical, ‘hands on’ educational toolkit which accelerates Digital Circular Economy repair skills and know-how within local communities.

ESRC EPSRC IAA funded The Repair Shop 2049 project (£14.5K) has explored, in collaboration with The Making Rooms the Right-to-Repair for electronic IoT devices and the design of pathways for developing local repair infrastructures and circular economies.

EPSRC PETRAS funded Edge of Reality project (£84K), with partners BBC Research & Development has investigated the sustainability and cyber-security of data generated by our interactions with Edge-IoT technologies. This builds on the previously EPSRC PETRAS funded Edge of Tomorrow project (£42K).

External Roles

Review Board Member – Association for Computing Machinery’s Journal on Computing and Sustainable Societies (ACM JCSS)

Current Teaching

UG Module Convener – LICA241: Design Visualisations

PGT Module Convener – LICA429: Imagination Lab

PGT Supervisor – LICA426: Design Management Major Research Project

PGR Supervisor – 7 x PhD Researchers


Designing  A Sustainable Internet of Things

Michael’s doctoral research focused on the environmental impacts of industrial product design in the age of ubiquitous computing, specifically the sustainability of the Internet of Things. Through practice-led design research, Michael developed the concept of spimes into a multidimensional lens which other designers, researchers and technologists can harness in order to reframe their IoT praxis to have sustainability baked-in from the outset.

The Little Book of Sustainability for the Internet of Things and the sustainable design manifesto Spimes Not Things serve as introductions to Michael’s research.

Click on the images below to read the publications



Michael Stead's full list of publications can be viewed here

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