Open technology and traditional manufacturing come together

7 September 2017

The fact that the maker movement and manufacturers are working together through open technologies is creating a new innovation scenario which benefits both parties and where certain industrial paradigms are being challenged internationally.

In a time when so many social, financial and production changes are taking place, mainly because of the crisis but also because of the wide use of technology in all fields (hardware, software, internet), new partnership opportunities that were previously unexplored are arising.

OpenMakeris an example of this – a ground-breaking international project which aims to find the balance between financial and social priorities. This balance is not only seen as a result – it will become a prerequisite for the survival of European societies. It means bringing together two worlds that were previously independent: the maker movement and manufacturing companies.

The Maker movement began in the US just over a decade ago and has spread fast all over the world, and nowadays there are hundreds of fairs and gatherings taking place. In this culture, which comes from the DIY culture, there is room for a wide range of technology like microprocessors, arduinos, drones, 3D printing, open-source hardware and all that is necessary and economically accessible to generate new capabilities by cutting costs and to do this in a more open and standardised way for new future uses.

On the other hand we have the manufacturing industry which has had a tough time during the financial crisis. Product and service innovation is necessary and Industry 4.0 is the way to go if companies want to stand out from the competition.

When faced with these two realities, how can the Open Source philosophy of the former fit in with the traditional industry of patents and more closed technology of the latter? Is there any way they can work together? How can they be partners and be mutually beneficial on an international level? In short, how to combine Industry 4.0 and open innovation?

"OpenMaker", an initiative backed by the European Union as part of the Horizon 2020 framework, aims to answer these questions. It is spearheaded by The Young Foundation (UK), an organisation that specialises in social innovation, and other entities are taking part, like Tecnalia (Spain); Plus Value (Italy), an organisation for new financial models; IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca (Italy), LAMA (Italy), a development and cooperation agency; TOPIX (Italy), experts in internet traffic; Boğaziçi University (Turkey); Centire (Slovakia), the Centre for Tyre Research; Zurich University (Switzerland); and Accord group, a social care organisation (UK).

Four places of action have been established in Europe for OpenMaker: Italy, Spain, Slovakia and UK. These LES (Local Enabling Spaces) will be active hubs where activities will take place to revitalise the maker community, identify needs of manufacturing companies and share the vision of all participating agents to generate an open manufacturing ecosystem.

These LES will also be allocated funding to develop five Open Manufacturing prototypes which meet real needs of manufacturing companies and which will get financial rewards for their development (€20,000 per project).

This community of makers, industry and other agents has already set to work sharing ideas, needs, and debates about ways of working together and results of future work, and about how to take part in calls for proposals, etc.

The Spanish LES, coordinated by Tecnalia, held a meeting in Bilbao on 28 June to present the project, in collaboration with Enpresa Digitala. It gathered more than 70 professionals with a common goal: to meet other agents with whom to establish partnership links in terms of open innovation for products and production processes.

We have also planned two presentation days on 25 and 26 September at the Technology Parks in Gipuzkoa and Álava respectively, also organised by Enpresa Digitala.

As well as these presentation events, there are other events planned which will be of interest to this community as it continues to grow as part of a collaboration and co-creation framework. These events will cover topics like intellectual and industrial property in the open maker world, legal agreements, etc.

To take part in this community, the first thing to do is fill in a form on the association's website.