Using the innovation ecosystem: Prototyping and co-creation in openly accessible Makerspaces

Application and benefits

New innovation or creative spaces, hacker spaces, co-working spaces, FabLabs, Makerspaces or open workshops can be used as spaces for innovation development. They offer a stable framework as well as the freedom to think creatively about potential innovations, exchange knowledge about these with other interested parties and even work on ideas or implement them with digital tools, such as 3-D printers or laser cutters. They are all open to potential selection, depending on what each innovation space can offer and what the aim of the innovation is.

Innovation spaces from a business perspective

Creativity and innovation spaces are of interest to any organisation that is interested in current developments and/or that wants to keep its finger on the pulse. From the organisation’s perspective, a distinction can be made between various forms of innovation space, which can be described as follows:

  • Inside-out: The organisation creates space within its own premises (innovation labs), which are often equipped as Makerspaces. The open exchange, which is the principle of cooperation in these spaces, therefore depends on the organisational culture.
  • Outside-in: The organisation looks for a suitable space outside its own premises and cooperates with others. This often happens because of certain events or on a one-off basis, e.g. for a specific issue, and is ideally used to enhance the organisation’s own ideas base.
  • Innovation management in an organisation’s ecosystem: This is where the development of innovations takes place throughout the organisation, through existing regular cooperation and work innovations space e.g. in publicly accessible FabLabs, which are also used regularly by employees. (Schön et al. 2017, p. 21).

Organisations increasingly have their own Makerspaces or allow their employees to work in external Makerspaces during working hours or as part of workshops, to support learning at an individual and organisational level. As well as supporting personal development, organisational “making” is increasingly used to optimise production processes, improve design efficiency, accelerate innovation processes and improve the innovation culture. Handling digital tools, working and developing in the open structure and discussion with a community of makers is often of key interest to the organisation (Schön, S. and Ebner, M. 2017, p. 11). Organisations are increasingly beginning to network in many different ways. An active community of students, researchers, company representatives, private individuals, corporations with existing incubators and cross-sector corporations provide new impulses to cooperation and enable unparalleled knowledge transfer and creative inspiration.

Based on the cooperation in the (external) Makerspace, organisations are also often directly interested in improving their recruiting, initiating cooperation with a university (if that university has a Makerspace) or testing new ideas, developing products and services and producing prototypes. Through cooperations with public Makerpaces, organisations have a straightforward, non-bureaucratic opportunity to faster, as well as individual, production of prototypes and products and they also benefit from research and development activities.

Method

  • Find a Makerspace in your area, either by paying a visit or going on an actual or virtual tour (web: http://www.exploreinnospaces.eu or https://www.fablabs.io
  • Consider which projects could be assisted by a Makerspace and its community:
    for creating a prototype (functionality, design, etc.), developing a new product, material consultancy and testing, assistance with elaborating project concept, small series production for initial steps for a market launch, etc.
  • Take part in some induction training (most courses are held once a week in the evening)
  • Obtain membership for the innovation team and then begin on-site and network with other technically experienced inventors.

Tips for fairness

Generally useful guidelines for respectful and fair cooperation between open workshops and organisations include:

  • Clear arrangements and rules regarding the object of cooperation (agreements, etc.)
  • Clear communication, also for any issues arising
  • Specific contact people for the organisation and labs
  • Mutual willingness to compromise
  • Sharing of expertise
  • Knowledge or understanding of each other’s procedural logic
  • Clear responsibilities
  • Set boundaries between using innovative energies for own purposes and cooperation on equal terms
  • Awareness of establishing give-and-take
  • Willingness to allow cooperation to grow without any fixed ideas

Further reading and sources