Birmingham City Council and Birmingham City University joined forces last week to welcome a European delegation to the city. The delegates were here as part of a European Funded project called Urban M to look into ways of boosting local economies by encouraging SMEs to become more innovative.

The project hopes to spark more innovation in SMEs through the use of collaborative maker spaces. These are spaces where people with a variety of skills and expertise work together to come up with new ideas and products. A fantastic example of this is the recently opened maker space in Digbeth (Birmingham, UK): STEAMhouse. Opened in May this year, STEAMhouse is home to specially designed spaces to prototype new products and develop new ideas, plus a fabrication facility where members can experiment with digital, wood, metal and print production. It could be the birthplace of the next big idea for the city!

The delegates also visited a number of maker spaces in Birmingham's creative quarter including: 

Innovation Birmingham (a digital and tech business incubator), Fizz Pop (a community run maker workshop), Stax creations (a creative production agency) and the Custard Factory (a collection of creative and digital businesses, independent retailers and event venues) to gather ideas to take home.

The Urban M project has been up and running since spring 2017. Over the past year the partnership has seen many interesting examples of collaborative maker spaces. The project is supporting policy makers and local city stakeholders to share good practice on the development and sustainability of collaborative maker spaces. One of the key aims of the project is to learn from the successes which already exist within the partnership, in supporting local innovation through collaborative making. The project's objective is to share good practice and to ensure maker spaces thrive by changing local and regional innovation policy to support them. Currently Urban M is working with eight cities (Birmingham, Bratislava, Lazio, Lisbon, Kranj, San Sebastian, Vilnius, Zagreb), but ultimately we hope the good practices and learning developed through this project will be transferrable to other cities and regions across the EU.

Watch this space #UrbanM

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