FabLab

What are the typical features of a well-functioning Makerspace and how can organisations make use of these?

Firstly, it’s all about the business ecosystem that we are establishing at Werkstätte Wattens and FabLab. Actually, that is the biggest challenge! To create a space and an environment where people feel comfortable, want to come together, feel creative, free themselves from their fears of digital production technologies and thus help them to develop innovations. These are the basic requirements that need to be in place in a Makerspace right from the start. As well as these important “soft facts”, access to digital technologies is clearly a central focus. Electronics and software knowledge are also key factors of success so you need a positive commitment to these.

 

What specific services does the “Centre for Rapid Innovation” offer, particularly for businesses?

Firstly, we offer an operational lab, so members can use the individual machines and production technologies. Secondly, we also offer services such as technology consultancy, design thinking, prototyping and even specific training and personal development services. Finally, we offer a wide range of services, from the conventional commissioning of prototypes to larger joint development projects, that often last a year or longer, and much more - the common denominator is always “lean and rapid”. If necessary, we also call on people from the network, so we are also better equipped with resources.

In many projects, we develop a “proof of concept” together with the customer, and put forward ideas so as to give rise to a functioning prototype, which the business can then consider and decide whether to continue working on it or establish a start-up from it. If requested, we can support businesses in all areas of innovation management, where there is a lack of the necessary knowledge and resource.

We are constantly thinking about new concepts (innovation workshops, programs for business model development, etc.) and test these with businesses. We are very good at prototyping and can do (almost) everything ourselves in-house, as we have a pool of many different skills. We provide space and opportunities for interdisciplinary conversations and integrated working. In this respect, we think it is important to focus on technology, innovation, regional value creation and sustainable growth.

 

You work regularly with medium-sized enterprises. What is the great potential there?

The great potential of our Makerspace is that we work very professionally and bring together many different skills. We can develop prototypes in fast cycles, which is a major challenge for large businesses. For them, all equipment and machines are often located at who knows how many different sites, with who knows how many different responsibilities, and tied up with waiting times and other costs. As a result, these businesses cannot achieve the innovation cycle that we can achieve at Werkstätte Wattens. In two weeks, we can simulate dozens of prototypes, which is something a large business cannot do.

Our common denominator is lean and rapid innovation. In this respect, we try things that we learn from start-ups, that are part of our practice, and relay everything to large businesses, and vice versa. Large businesses are often too slow and small ones often lack structure, but each can learn from the other. There is no 100% optimal approach.

 

What considerations are relevant for fair and reliable relationships and for good cooperation between the Makerspace in Werkstätte Wattens and businesses?

Fairness and other values such as reliability, transparency, cooperation and trust are central to us. If you can practise these values, you will go far.

In our experience, there must be a solid foundation of trust before businesses will come to you. This basis of trust often develops as a result of many years of contact and is achieved because the business has had positive experiences of the other services (such as the teambuilding workshop) that we offer in FabLab, for example, and thus feels reassured. Cooperation is based on shared experience and trust, which also enables FabLab to position itself well in terms of development. What matters is integrity.

However, trust and reputation have to be earned and built - and that also has something to do with the respective personalities in the team. And that is something that is not so easy to imitate! The Werkstätte Wattens builds trust slowly and gradually; we think about medium to long-term stability. The aim of cooperation must always be a win-win situation. It needs to be fair, transparent, open and honest. Because transparency is also crucial for trust and successful collaboration.

 

(Interview with Dr. Christian Teissl conducted on 9.5.19 by Diana Wieden-Bischof)