Urban Hax provides space & high/low tech equipment to enable creative individuals to experiment, design, make and form collaborations and sustainable businesses
Urban Hax was based on the founders’ previous experience in digital and physical innovation projects and initiatives in local and regional economic development, it became apparent that a makerspace type of operation was needed. The English West Midlands has a long history of design and manufacturing and was home to generations of designers/makers in a wide range of industrial and manufacturing sectors. Designing and making is in people’s DNA and in the current post-industrial age the desire remains but the job opportunities were few.
Prior to the formation of the company, Urban Hax CIC in 2014, the founders’ ran makerspace type activities and projects in a co-located office space. This restricted the innovation activity to digital/desktop engineering and in 2015 the decision was taken to move into a new building which provided the space to undertake a wide range of design & make activities.
The operation achieves its objectives through several actions: providing rentable space for creative individuals to run their own business; offering memberships so users can access the makerspace facilities and services; winning commissions to undertake innovative projects and; acquiring grant funding for projects to upskill people and help them back into work or to improve their life chances.
The space has supported makers to win more work and, importantly, they are beginning to collaborate with each to develop new thinking/practice and to offer new services to their clients.

Resources needed

Start up costs (founders)
Equipment €40,000
Furniture and fittings €30,000
Costs per year:
Workshops, exhibitions, research: €10,000
Space renting, facilities: €20,000
Investment into products: €5,000
Human resources: staff & course tutors: €30,000
Materials: €10,000

Evidence of success

The operation is approaching capacity in terms of space (currently 15 business). It is in the process of identifying a larger building to house an expanded makerspace along with dedicated facilities. The company has successfully completed a range of innovative projects and its growing reputation is providing many more opportunities.
It is in advanced discussions with public sector bodies to enter into a partnership to undertake projects addressing economic growth and community cohesion.

Difficulties encountered

Sustainability is a key challenge. It has taken almost 3 years to reach a point where the operation can plan the future with a degree of certainty and this in a period of significant economic downturn.
A further key lesson is to make sure that the precise needs of every makerspace user is addressed

Potential for learning or transfer

The makerspace was developed bottom up with initial investment from the company founders. It was an act of faith and the belief that a makerspace operation of this kind would work and become popular.
If we’d waited for public sector partners to buy into the idea it may never have happened. Hopefully the current climate provides a more receptive environment now that examples of successful operations are in place.
We take a wide view on the meaning of creativity and we’re now home to individuals across a wide spectrum of creative disciplines. Whilst this requires some careful management the makerspace gets real and positive benefit from the presence of this diverse group.
It is an inclusive environment where individuals feel comfortable regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, culture, economic circumstance or health status. It has a range of income streams to ensure long term sustainability. Makerspaces cannot survive on a limited range of income and resource generating activities
Project
Main institution
Birmingham City Council
Location
West Midlands, United Kingdom
Start Date
May 2015
End Date
Ongoing

Contact

Laura Veart Please login to contact the author.