This week I was honored to participate in a week-long Made@EU workshop hosted at FabLab Budapest in collaboration with FabLab Barcelona, ENSCI Les Ateliers and Plymouth College of Art. Subsidized by grant-funding from the EU, the workshop aimed to provide an engaging introduction to the tools that form the heart of a typical FabLab.
It's easy to look at this sort of workshop as an obvious model for disseminating exactly the kinds knowledge required to convert personal passions into the small-firm innovation that EU leaders vociferously support. However, in practice it's a tenuous effort by a small team of scrappy teacher-makers whose labor is generally paid from other sources.
The workshop forms the base layer of a sensible open-innovation strategy. Giving basic prototyping skills to adults who suspect that what they see in their mind's eye is within reach, but aren't sure exactly where to throw an anchor and start developing technical skills. It also provides a great opportunity for experts in one field to gain prototyping skills in a related field. For example, the software/hardware developer who needed move from naked silicon and flashing LEDs to testing prototypes of case designs and deploying materials that would determine the ultimate look and feel of his ideas.
The Made@EU workshop model could feed qualified candidates into start-up incubators across Europe, and more importantly, it can create qualified candidates from much broader backgrounds than the usual suspects (hint: wealthy white male delinquents). Unfortunately, at the moment, the intake of the innovation pipeline in Europe currently stops well-short of extending to the grassroots level at which Made@EU operates.
This article is a draft. Look for additional commentary soon, along with excerpts of interviews with leaders from the Made@EU partnership.