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Fablabs and makerspaces

By Platform

Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform organised an online discussion on FabLabs and Makerspaces on Tuesday 2 March 2021.

A Fab Lab or digital fabrication laboratory, is a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent: a place for learning and innovation. They provide access to the environment, the skills, the materials and the advanced technology to allow anyone anywhere to make (almost) anything (fabfoundation).

FabLab and Makerspaces are flexible policy tools. They can respond to multiple local policy challenges or opportunities:

  • To promote STEAM
  • To promote entrepreneurship
  • To promote university-industry collaboration
  • To address local societal challenges
  • To facilitate prototyping for SMEs
  • To promote interactions among quadruple helix stakeholders
  • To promote learning new skills…

They can address different stakeholders:

  • Students (schools and universities)
  • Entrepreneurs
  • SMEs
  • Public sector…

Tomas Diez, Director at Fab Lab Barcelona, presented the Fab Lab Barcelona, Fab City Initiative, and the Fab Academy. Cities have lost the capacity to create products and to grow food. Fab Lab Barcelona contributes to rediscovering how to produce and consume in cities. Fab Lab Barcelona participates in multiple European projects. Fab Academy teach students how to make (almost) anything without going to MIT in Boston, United States. Tomas Diez points out that “FabLabs are not aimed to replace industries but to accelerate the transition towards local production using existing industrial capacities”.

The Fab City Initiative sees the city as a local productive system moving information rather than products to produce locally with the aim to produce almost everything the city consumes by 2054. The Fab City Handbook is a practical resource from the Fab City Global Initiative to guide policymakers to become a locally productive and globally connected city by 2054. FabLabs can respond to local sectoral challenges and the Textile Academy can provide resources for FabLabs in the textile sector. Other platforms such as the Distributed Design offers resources to support policymakers and designers when pursuing the creation of FabLabs.

From Interreg Europe project AGRI RENAISSANCE, Cláudia Rodrigues, Agrocluster Ribatejo, and Marta Evangelista De Lima, FOOD FAB LAB Manager, presented the FOOD FAB LAB, a shared innovation infrastructure that allows private companies to test, conduct internal R&D activities, licence, and manufacture food products. From the FOOD FAB LAB good practice, three recommendations were given, (1) to involve a diverse range of stakeholders, (2) to explore native species, and (3) to develop a marketing plan with strategic communication plans.

Some European regions have supported initiatives to promote FabLabs. In Digital Regions, Margaret Quinn presented the Fab Lab Network in Slovenia and the FabLab initiative at Hof University of Applied Sciences in Germany. In P-IRIS, Lars Hustveit, Vestland County, Norway, presented the transformation of an old shipyard into a space for co-creation. In Urban M, Helena Cvenkel, points out the importance to merge technical with creative knowledge and skills for FabLabs to be a force for transformative changes.

Policy Learning Platform resources

If you have any specific questions related to FabLabs and Makerspaces, you can reach out to Policy Learning Platform experts directly via the policy helpdesk.

Image credit: Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels