MakerSpaces as Places of Innovation

Project timeline: Jan. 2020 – Dec. 2022       

Financing: € 7.2 million from the EU funding program Horizon 2020

Partners: 20

Project coordinator: Instituto Tecnologico Metalmecanico (Spain)

Tasks of FIT: Development of Design Thinking and co-creation methods, Organization of workshops for SMEs within the framework of MakerSpace

Julia Reuter is the founder of a local start-up and has a passion for developing new ideas. She has many ambitious plans for the future of her company, but lacks the necessary resources to turn her ideas into real prototypes. Thankfully, the iProduce project connects Julia with all local resources for innovation. With the help of MakerSpace, Julia takes innovation into her own hands and learns about the tools and methods that interest her. Through participation in workshops, she gains practical experience with 3D printers and laser cutters which she can use to bring her prototypes to maturity. She also learns about methods of innovation, including ideation and paper prototyping. Together with other members of the maker community, knowledge and resources are shared to promote user-driven open innovation and co-creation. By the end of her experience, Julia could apply the knowledge she has acquired to successfully advance her company.

In an increasingly digital society, traditional innovation practices need to adapt. Market trends and consumer requirements are constantly changing, which means that new products must be brought to market as quickly as possible. Companies that previously focused on in-house research and development are finding more success through collaborative innovation approaches such as open innovation and co-creation. However, most of the time companies have failed in the implementation process due to a lack of communication. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, find it difficult to benefit from collaborative innovation despite their advantage of being close to the market.

MakerSpaces and FabLabs are places of innovation, where devices such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and milling machines are available to everyone. Many hobbyists have their first contact with these devices there. The ideas and realized projects are a great source of innovation for small and medium-sized companies who are not equipped with the funds or resources for an internal research and development department. Rarely, however, are these ideas brought to the market. The necessary experience and exchange between innovation spaces and industry is missing.

This is where iProduce comes in, aiming to close the communication gap and enable better cooperation with the places of innovation. iProduce is developing a platform that is supported by innovative tools such as agile prototyping and generative product design. Furthermore, events such as “Open House” in the MakerSpace community will be held, providing device demonstrations and workshops on topics such as the Design Thinking. Fraunhofer FIT will play an important role in the organization of these events and in the development of Design Thinking and co-creation methods for MakerSpaces. The aim is to make it easier for SMEs to get started with MakerSpace and to promote networking between creative people. With the help of digitalized training and education, inexperienced participants will also be taught how to handle machines, tools and materials and be able to learn independently.

iProduce began on January 1, 2020 and is part of the EU project "Factory of the Future" (Horizon 2020). The platform will be installed, monitored and evaluated in six local environments with diverse experience, objectives and application areas. 19 cooperation partners from nine different countries are involved and the project leader is the Instituto Tecnologico Metalmecanico, Mueble, Madera, Embalaye y Afines-Aidimme from Spain.

Official project website: https://iproduce-project.eu