Fab Spaces provide wider public access to professional manufacturing technologies and are providing a new context for entrepreneurial innovation, explains Valeria Dammicco of the Centre for Technology Management within the IfM at University of Cambridge, one of the many students supported by RADMA over the last 40 years.
Valeria is launching nominations for a Hall of Fame at the R&D Management Conference 2019 to celebrate the contribution made by authors and here she discusses what inspired her to study this emerging area of technology innovation.
What support did you get from RADMA and how did it help you?
I won the RADMA doctorate studentship last year, which is helping me cover the cost of my living expenses for two years of my PhD. I am very grateful for this opportunity, which has significantly improved my academic experience.
Please can you outline the topic of your research at the time you received the RADMA support and details of any outputs (presentations, papers)?
In the digital and automation era, we are witnessing a socio-technical transformation that poses both challenges and threats to our societies.
Many jobs are at risk and governments are increasingly concerned about ways to compensate for this potential loss. Fostering more entrepreneurial economies might provide a potential answer to this problem.
A new type of organisation has emerged in recent years that could become pivotal in achieving this goal.
This is the case of Fab-Spaces (Fabrication Spaces), design and production facilities that provide members of the wider public access to professional manufacturing technologies. Maker Spaces, Hacker Spaces and Fab Labs are three of the most common names adopted by Fabrication Spaces. While these facilities might appear as mere high-tech tinkering garages where people can learn and experiment with technology, their innovation and production capabilities are providing a new context for entrepreneurship and user-innovation to emerge.
However, there is still little research probing into the real potential of Fab-Spaces and how they can foster entrepreneurial innovation. In order to fill this gap, we looked at Fab-Spaces as possible contexts for entrepreneurial innovation and tried to address the following research question:
How do individuals with entrepreneurial intentions take advantage of Fabrication Spaces’ environments to develop and commercialise new products?
I have presented my research at the DRUID Academy 2019 in Aalborg (Denmark) and will be presenting at the R&D Management 2019 in Paris (France) and the AOM 2019 in Boston (US).
I am also part taking in VULCA, a European research project on Fabrication Spaces that is bringing together researchers from across Europe to study Makers’ mobility.
What was the most interesting thing that you learnt while working in research (some findings or observations)?
Fabrication Spaces are very peculiar innovation environments where the community populating the space is as important as the technology embedded into it. These workshops seem to provide an opportunity for networking among people sharing a common interest in making and technology that would not otherwise be available. Many hobbyists or Fab Spaces’ members discover opportunities for commercialisation by sharing their inventions with others in the space and profiting from their know-how, know-what and know-who, three essential blocks of knowledge that entrepreneurs need to strive. The impact of Fabrication Spaces in urban communities is proving disruptive in terms of their innovation and entrepreneurship potential.
If someone wanted to learn more about this subject what would you recommend they read?
“Designing Reality: How to Survive and Thrive in the Third Digital Revolution” by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld and Neil Gershenfeld
“Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything” by David Lang
Browder, R. E., Aldrich, H. E., & Bradley, S. W. (2019). The emergence of the maker movement: Implications for entrepreneurship research. Journal of Business Venturing.
Mortara, L., & Parisot, N. G. (2016). Through entrepreneurs’ eyes: the Fab-spaces constellation. International Journal of Production Research, 54(23), 7158-7180.
What are you doing now and does this build on your knowledge of R&D Management?
I am currently half way through my PhD studies; my supervisor is Dr Letizia Mortara.
What do you think RADMA offers the research community?
Being a RADMA scholar has provided me with great opportunities for networking and collaboration that extended beyond the UK. The prestige of the association and its track record of impactful research can represent a significant added value for junior researchers like me, who started with little to no academic reputation.
I would highly recommend anyone who is enrolling on a PhD course in the field of R&D Management to consider applying for the RADMA doctorate studentship.