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Open Innovation Toolbox

Maker Spaces Benefits of the innovation-ecosystem: Prototyping and co-creation in open accessible makerspaces

Method in brief

Makerspaces provide an environment in which technically-versed employees within the innovation team are able to develop ideas and concepts without the interruption of the everyday working life. For a small membership fee, these open workshops provide a practical enrolment in the use of production tools, which are now common, in particular 3D printing, etc., which enable the prototyping through to small-scale batches.

Get into the innovation and inventing spirit within a community like this!

Application and use

New innovation or creativity spaces, hackerspaces, co-working spaces, fab-labs, makerspaces and open workshops act as a space for innovation development. They provide a secure framework and also free-space to think creatively about possible innovations, to exchange knowledge on them with others and also to work on ideas and/or implement them with digital tools like a 3D printer or laser-cutter. These can all be differentiated depending on the provision of innovation space and according to the innovation objective.

Innovation spaces from the perspective on enterprises

Creativity and innovation spaces are a subject-matter for every enterprise that is interest in current developments and/or would like to remain in touch with the latest trends. From the view of the enterprise, different forms of innovation spaces can be described and differentiated in different ways:

  • Inside-out: The enterprise generates internal spaces (innovation labs) that are often equipped like makerspaces. The open exchange, which is a part of the principle of collaboration within these spaces, is independent of the business culture.
  • Outside-in: The enterprise is looking for and cooperates with a corresponding space outside of the enterprise. This often occurs dependent on the occasion or as a one-off, for example on a particular matter, and serves the purpose of developing their own idea-base.
  • Innovation management within an enterprise’s eco-system: Here, the development of innovation often occurs through existing, regular collaboration and work in innovation spaces surrounding the enterprise, for example in public, accessible fab-labs which are regularly used by employees (Schön et al. 2017, p. 21).

More and more often, enterprises have their own makerspaces or allow their employees to work in external makerspaces in the form of workshops or during working hours in order to support learning at an individual and organisational level. Alongside supporting personal development, “making” is being used ever more frequently by enterprises to optimise the production process, for efficient design and/or acceleration of innovation processes and to improve the innovation culture. Working with digital tools, as well as working and developing within the open structure and in exchange with a community of makers is often a focal interest of the enterprise (Schön, S. and Edner, M. 2017, p. 11). Enterprises are beginning to network more and more in the most varied of ways. An active community made up of students, researchers, company representatives and private individuals, cooperation with existing incubators, as well as cross-industry cooperations set a new collaborative momentum and enable a unique knowledge transfer and creative inspiration.

Furthermore, enterprises are often directly interested in this as a result of the collaboration within the (external) makerspace, e.g. to improve recruitment, integrate cooperation with a university (if this engages the makerspace) or to test new ideas, develop products and offers, and produce prototypes. Through the collaborations with public makerspaces, enterprises have the simple, non-bureaucratic opportunity for faster, yet also more individual production of prototypes and products, and furthermore they benefit from research and development activities.

  • Familiarisation with a makerspace within the more immediate environment, either paying a visit, participating in tours or stopping by virtually (online: http://www.exploreinnospaces.eu or https://www.fablabs.io)
  • Thinking about which projects would benefit from a makerspace and its community:
    in the creation of a prototype (functionality, design, etc.), developing a new product, material consultation and testing, help in polishing the project concept, manufacture of small batches for the first market launch steps, etc.
  • Participation in introductory training (normally this is offered 1x per week in the evening)
  • Obtain membership for the innovation team and then begin to network with other technically-versed inventors on-site.

General, useful guidelines for a confident and fair cooperation between open workshops and companies are:

  • Clear arrangements and rules on the cooperation object (contracts, etc.)
  • Clear communication, also applicable to possible arising problems
  • Specific persons of contact for the enterprises and the labs
  • Willingness to compromise on both sides
  • Know-how sharing
  • Knowledge and/or understanding for logic of action of the respective other side
  • Clear responsibilities
  • Determine boundaries between the use of innovative energies for their own purposes and collaboration on an equal footing
  • Generate awareness for a balanced ‘give and take’ relationship
  • The willingness to allow a collaboration to grow without fixed perceptions

FabLab experience report

The FabLab “Center for Rapid Innovation” has been in Tirol since 2016 and has been available to medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and technology enthusiasts with its makerspace to test, prototype and produce small batches with modern production technologies and for creative experience exchange in innovation projects. Across a total of 300m² there are modern technologies (e.g. 3D printers, 3D scanners, CNC milling machines, CO2 laser cutters,6-axis robots and material printers) and seminar rooms available for use and for open exchange. Werkstätte Wattens, a regional development initiative of Tirol is a supporter. More information: https://www.werkstaette-wattens.at/de/center-for-rapid-innovation.

In the interview, Dr. Christian Teissl, Head of the Center for Rapid Innovation, reports on the provision of a typical makerspace and/or FabLab, and the challenges faced by collaborating with enterprises in an innovation project.

Go to the interview

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