Makerspaces are hubs for people to come together and share ideas, equipment and knowledge whilst working on projects. Founded on principles of collaboration, diversity, iteration and accessibility, it is little wonder that Makerspaces are so important to fostering entrepreneurship.
Since their popularisation in the early 2000s Makerspaces have pivoted from being a haven for hobbyists, into being a hotbed of entrepreneurship as evidenced by a plethora of inventions and start-ups. Most notably Pebble Smartwatch (now known as Fitbit), DodoCase and Square were all launched via Makerspaces and can therefore be seen as a result of affordable access to a diverse and collaborative project space.
A mental shift occurs, moving from passive consumption of information and products to active creation. A hallmark shift for all entrepreneurial thinkers.
Today’s students face a complex entrepreneurial world in which creativity, design, engineering, sustainability, resourcefulness and collaboration are key. Most graduates will work for a ‘startup’ in volatile markets, and Robotics and Automation will increasingly alter the workforce.
Makerspaces are essential to fostering entrepreneurship, here are 5 key reasons why:
1. Cost no longer a ‘barrier to entry’
Affordable (or free in many cases) access design tools, fabrication tools, materials and expertise enables pre-revenue entrepreneurs to take their idea to prototype stage without significant financial investment. Thus many more start-ups can produce prototypes which can then be utilised to go to market for investment.
2. Learner-centered Education Breeds Creation
Hands on exploratory education promotes risk taking and experimentation which leads to self confidence and innovation. A mental shift occurs, moving from passive consumption of information and products to active creation. A hallmark shift for all entrepreneurial thinkers.
3. Foundational Skills Lead to Inspirational Endeavors
Makerspaces provide users with foundational instruction on equipment, materials and processes. This is combined with access to more experiences makers and a plethora of other learning opportunities such as tutorials, video tutorials, forums, Q&A’s and more. These foundational skills provide the building blocks for innovation and self-lead learning.
4. Faster Prototyping
Access to equipment, materials, contemporaries and mentors helps to speed up the prototyping phase. Today’s markets move quickly, and rapid prototyping is essential for timely commercialisation.
5. Developing Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy
As Makerspaces continue to align towards enterprise, entrepreneurs of all expertise and experience levels work together. As Hui & Gerber (2017) observe ‘the two most prominent mechanisms of developing self-efficacy…observed were modeling and public validation.’ Modeling via ‘novices’ observing and interacting with ‘expert’ members and public validation via community channels, physical proximity and return interaction between ‘expert’ and ‘novice’ members. At all expertise levels members benefit from interacting with one another.
Entrepreneurship is nurtured through collaboration, mentorship, feedback, iteration and acceleration, and Makers are learning these vital entrepreneurial skills in Makerspaces all over the world.
At the MCIC Makerspace we run a comprehensive and year-round program of events, talks and workshops: MCIC Foundations. Open to everyone in the UNSW community, our MCIC Foundations programs are targeted towards new and aspiring entrepreneurs, and are the perfect stepping stone to the suite of Founders programs offered by the UNSW Entrepreneurship Team.
Hui, Julie & Gerber, Elizabeth. (2017). Developing Makerspaces as Sites of Entrepreneurship. the 2017 ACM Conference. 2023-2038. 10.1145/2998181.2998264. Full report.