A technologically supported environment for innovation, prototyping and invention, also aimed at encouraging a circular economy
Fabrication Laboratories are commonly known as FabLabs. The abbreviation indicates open, non-commercial creative places where innovators can use the most advanced equipment and technology. The idea was born at the Centre for Bits and Atoms in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). FabLabs were initiated to find out how technology can become the driving force of development in underserved communities. Most FabLabs are equipped with 3D-printers, CNC machines and laser cutting and engraving machines.
The global FabLab Network is an open and creative community of makers, engineers, researchers, scientists, artists, teachers, students and experts of all ages who collaborate and work together in innovative ways in more than 1000 FabLabs in 78 countries. The World Bank acknowledged FabLabs as an effective way to develop local industry, promote entrepreneurship, acquire practical learning experience and increase interest in education in the direction of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). FabLabs also contribute to the training of staff who are then able to follow the latest developments, co-creating new development and business opportunities at home and abroad. All technological equipment in companies, laboratories, educational institutions that is only rarely used will be listed along with the existing knowledge and competences. The equipment, knowledge and competences in individual laboratories are focused on the field of smart specialisation.
Approximatelly 20,000 EUR per FabLab is needed for equipment, and 1 full time job. Moreover, additional funding of approximately 50,000 per year is needed for programmes and mentors.
Evidence of success
The strategic partner network is a diverse ecosystem of 76 organisations (excluding the FabLabs) ranging from higher-education and research institutions, business support organisations, municipalities, small, medium, mid-cap, large enterprises. The public database of FabLab’s existing technical and expertise offer provides 40 training items and, more importantly, 114 high-tech non-trivial equipment items, that are listed to support sharing and, in case of production requirements, renting etc.
The financing model relies on funding from regional and national authorities and is subject to distinct policies and strategies in the domain. While there are many benefits for the involved partners and citizens, they are not the one's financing the network.
Potential for learning or transfer
The critical improvement for the FabLab Network Slovenia would come in the form of stable long-term financing embedded in the inter/national frameworks. The potential for transfer lies in the relative directness of its operations (promotion, coordination, joint project and events) and measures, strengthening the impacts through scaling to more FabLabs and more partners on the national and international level.
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