The Master in Design for Emergent Futures (MDEF) is already at its 5th edition, with four generations of Alumni down the line. 
Meet Roberto Broce, Barcelona-based bio designer and materials researcher. Using his long-standing fascination with fungi, Roberto came up with his current project Mic Board which he has been working on during and after MDEF, having managed to continuously grow it in the process.


The project’s aim is to reform the contemporary surfboard by replacing plastic with agricultural waste from farms around Barcelona and mycelium which is the root-like structure of the fungi. Why did Roberto choose to work with the material? Because of its unexplored territory offering an open field for experimentation. Until Mic Board no one had been using the material to create surfboards, even though mycelium has the properties to act as a very good replacement for polystyrene and other types of plastic like foam. In this sense, the project is not just innovative but could also prove to be a disruptive solution to replacing plastic in the surfboard industry.

MDEF played a crucial role in the inspiration and development of Mic Board. It pushed Roberto to go beyond his interest in fungi and explore biology at large while giving him the confidence to constantly go a little further, get out of his comfort zone, make interventions, talk to new people, hear new ideas and new perspectives. All of this combined with the fabrication skills picked up throughout the course, including learning how to make 3D models and molds, working with wood and many others, opened the door for Mic Board ensuring that the project had the necessary foundation to launch and keep growing. 

A complex project like this one naturally requires a strong team. Roberto’s main partner Jessica Diaz is another IAAC alumni, she will participate in the IAAC Alumni Talks in the framework of the 4th Global Alumni Meeting. Together they collaborate with other scientists, designers and surfboard shapers from around Barcelona. All of this with the main goal of getting the plastic out of our oceans. But in order for them to do so and venture further into the exploration of mycelium, they need a space. That space is their laboratory, containing all the necessary equipment and most importantly presenting the ability to be fully controlled. Why is this important? Because fungi is a medium that attracts a lot of bacteria and other microorganisms and maintaining a sterile environment is vital for its healthy growth.

After having developed different prototypes for the surfboard, Roberto and his team embarked into a crowdfunding campaign resulting in receiving funds from all over the world. This meant that they were able to reach their goal and expand the lab, growing larger surfboards and human-sized prototypes to use for attracting new funding later on. Overall, the main goal being scaling up the project to different areas of the world where surfing is significant so that bit by bit plastic in the surfing industry could be replaced.

In the end, it looks like biomaterials can be used to induce change and make the world a better place. By bringing this new material into the industry, a growing number of people are already starting to see that the way things have been carried out in the past 50 years isn’t necessarily the best way things could be done. Alternatives are not only present but they are also very real. 

Thanks to people like Roberto and his team who are providing us with solutions for the replacement of plastic in our day to day lives, we are able to change the current reality we live in and feel hopeful for the future. 

And for people that want to follow his footsteps and come up with solutions for a positive change in their surroundings? Roberto is certain that MDEF provides what is necessary to learn how to work towards making the world a better place for themselves and for the people around them.

Read the full interview with Roberto Broce here.

The Master in Design for Emergent Futures is a multidisciplinary design course that focuses on turning ideas into actions to transform the state of society by proposing small-scale interventions to approach large-scale challenges. The applications for the Elisava Scholarship are still open until the 10th of April 2023, read more here!

The Master is organized by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, in collaboration with the Fab Academy. The practical content of the Master is developed by Fab Lab Barcelona, the research and innovation centre at IAAC.