Over the past year the two companies have been developing and testing a free online training programme – the Pro tech Network – to help start-ups and small enterprises who wish to offer repair services for these products get off the ground.

The work is being sponsored by Microsoft’s Registered Refurbisher Programme, which already works with PC refurbishers to extend the life of Windows PCs. The online toolkit offers a range of support for businesses – these include in-depth repair manuals, repair skills training, marketing best practices and design templates, as well as parts sourcing and testing pointers.

The network is also intended to act as a collaborative platform, enabling repair technologists to share their knowledge and learn from each other. Both companies hope the initiative will spur on the repair industry as a whole.

According to Microsoft, mobile devices are often used intermittently by consumers. This, combined with their very low power consumption means they use relatively minimal electrical power over their lifetime. However, the process to manufacture these devices takes a significantly larger amount of power consumption.

Some studies have indicated that an individual device would need to be used for tens of years before the usage footprint exceeds the manufacturing footprint. In addition, the value of metals such as copper, gold, lead, zinc, beryllium and tantalum contained within these mobile devices represents a largely untapped materials mining resource.

Microsoft’s Josh Henretig who is responsible for the company’s global environmental sustainability strategy, says the missing element is a better collection system to compile these materials so they can be reused.

“Ideally, if more local people offer repair, refurbishment and recycling services, more of these valuable resources can be driven back into the production cycle, supporting the idea of a circular economy” he blogged. “In this type of system, everything we use gets reused and recycled, reducing our need for virgin raw materials.”

I-fixit already offers a website where users can learn how to repair their own electronics. According to the company, this latest venture with Microsoft goes one step further in encouraging enthusiasts to see the business opportunity behind this growth market.

Microsoft is also collaborating on the recycling front. In June edie reported the IT giant had teamed up with Panasonic, Xerox and Sony America to back a new programme to encourage more responsible recycling of used consumer electronics goods.

Maxine Perella

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