Melodicas & Potatoes – 2 new Idea Fund Awards

We are delighted to announce our latest two ‘I’ve got an idea Fund’ awards for individuals and small organisations who have a technical idea that they want to test out to see if they can make it work.

Fibe – Creating textiles from potato harvest waste

Fibe consists of 5 Design Engineering students at Imperial College London who are keen to create more sustainable textiles.

The leafy plant that grows above the potato contributes to 5 million tonnes of non-compostable waste each year. Fibe’s plan is to collect this abundant and cheap waste stream from farmers and convert it to textiles. Their research assesses their fibres would use 99% less water, 92% less energy and 90% less land than cotton all while promoting food farming. The resulting textile is recyclable and biodegradable whilst also having excellent physical properties of softness, durability, washability and potentially being antimicrobial.

Fibe Team

Having run successful lab experiments creating workable fibres, the award will enable the team to fund a scaled trial this summer involving 5 potato farms and the use (thanks to Leeds University) of industrial spinning and weaving machines to test the scalability of Fibe’s process and produce the first high quality textile sample.

Connell McBride – Improving Melodica sound quality & design.

When not working as a lawyer in Northern Ireland, Connell McBride is passionate about increasing access to keyboard music education, particularly for young people disadvantaged economically or through disability.

Connell currently teaches using melodicas (small wind powered keyboards) because they are affordable (~ £20.00), easy to learn, portable and musically very expressive. Students can naturally progress to piano accordion, piano, keyboard, pipe organ and of course computer music via midi keyboard controllers.

Connell’s Melodica Class in Armagh

In seeking to increase the street cred and profile of the melodica, one significant drawback is that melodicas can sound a bit nasal and they look a bit toy like. So, Connell’s idea is to design a sound chamber that can be fitted to a cheap melodica which will improve the quality of its sound by muting the more nasal sounding frequencies. He plans to use materials such as wood or carbon fibre which will also augment the visual appeal of the instrument. The goal will be to improve the sound and look of a standardly priced melodica to create more attractive musical output and appearance but wthout greatly inflating the purchase price for young people.

Connell is teaming up with a carpenter friend who builds ukeleles and a local dentist whose 3D imaging equipment can help with prototype modelling for successive design experiments and testing. And it looks like there will be plenty of enthusiastic youngsters around to help try the prototypes out. The Idea Fund award will cover the cost of all the bits of kit and raw materials required for the experimental stage of the project.


In celebration of the Idea Fund’s never ending diversity of ideas, maybe one day I will stand, dressed in a potato leaf fibre dress, playing Irish folk tunes on a delightfully non-nasal sounding melodica.

The ‘I’ve got an Idea Fund’ is currently closed and will reopen for applications on 1st August 2022.

About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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