Europe is the maker continent and The EUMakerWeek confirms that fact.
Did you know that Europe is the continent with the highest number of FabLabsin the world?
Almost 300 laboratories out of the 611 mapped by the official site fablabs.iobelong to the old continent, even though the network began from the all-American MIT. Did you know that out of these labs there’s one – the Barcelona FabLab – that is currently the largest in terms of full-time employees? And did you know that, in just three super fast years, Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition has become the world’s third-largest, matching the decades-old American editions?
We can say it with a touch of pride: Europe is proving to be the makermovement’s most vital continent. It’s not a question of racing against the rest of the world, but of acknowledging that there is something in the European social, cultural, and economic texture that is fertile terrain for makers.
We know that the use of the word “maker” with this meaning originated in North America, coined by the Canadian writer Cory Doctorow to indicate a subculture in many respects more American than European: the playful side of technology; do-it-yourself; demonstrating one’s own skills; design as a challenge; the charm of recovering manual skills, and so on.
This is why the American Maker Faires still own a spectacular flavour, with splashy, over-the-top installations where technology is bound up with a desire for personal expression, for cultural identity, for collective involvement that goes beyond utility and cross over to discovery and astonishment. But the maker movement has spread quickly around the world, cutting across local cultures, albeit while taking on different articulations in each place.
When visiting a Chinese Maker Faire like the one in Shenzhen, we can see how the focus is on the product, and in particular the electronic one, seen as a generator of business: fun and discovery make way for entrepreneurship.
WHO ARE THE EUROPEAN MAKERS?
And in Europe? What profile do European makers have? Let’s begin by pointing out that Europe is the continent where Arduino – the leading tool used by makers around the world, and the heart of thousands of innovative projects and products – was born; Arduino is that board silkscreened with the Italian peninsula: apologies if it seems small. It is not the only one of the large, enabling technologies to be born in Europe: in fact, another electronic board having great success in recent years is British: RaspberryPi. RepRap is also British in origin; created in Bath by professor Adrian Bowyer, this initiative is responsible for the spread of low-cost, open-source 3D printers.
We could cite dozens of major projects, but these three excellent examples are enough to see what Europe’s role is. It is no accident that these technologies were born here, where the culture of entrepreneurship is combined with that of research, design, education, and social projects, and where the separation between technical and humanistic culture is less clear-cut. When visiting the European Maker Faires, we see groups of enthusiasts alongside future startuppers, entrepreneurial makers alongside research centres, large companies alongside innovative artisans, and schools alongside major institutions. Hundreds of projects, prototypes, and products are born from the maker world, attracting energy and investment, or are simply offered to the world, seeking to build a small piece of our future.
There is continuous osmosis between the economy and what is going on in the world of digital fabrication and the maker movement: the themes ofautomation, coding, industrial-level 3D printing, and mass customization are nourished by this informal, spontaneous, and distributed research. Makers often find solutions to needs unmet by industry (the disability sector, for example), and, in so doing, open new markets in addition to improving individuals’ lives. Attention by large industries, and by part of the educational sector, is greatest, with the birth of FabLabs at schools and universities.
THE WHITE HOUSE MAKER FAIRE
In 2015, a Maker Faire was held at the White House at President Obama’s invitation. On the opposite side of the world, the Chinese government was financing quite a few initiatives, including the Shenzhen Maker Faire.
EUROPEAN MAKER WEEK
The week from 30 May to 5 June will see maker events held throughout the continent, bringing together citizens, students, the media, institution and investors. We wish to capitalize on this world of people operating locally in a global network, and we’ll do so by uniting our forces in this large-scale, distributed event dedicated to creativity and innovation.
All FabLabs, makerspaces, hackerspaces, and school and university labs are invited to organize public events during European Maker Week and to add them to the map. The goal is to provide tangible and numerical proof of the European maker world and of its extensiveness, giving citizens the possibility of seeing this world with their own eyes, and familiarizing themselves with it, beyond the often simplistic depictions we see in the media. Besides, it is meant to provide a snapshot of this network, by mapping out everything that can be put into play over the course of a single week. Given the initiative’s institutional nature, the events – which may include workshops, general information courses, conferences, light talks, project stories, exhibitions, meetings with the world of production and craft, and meetings with local institutions – will be free of charge and open to the public.
Each fabLab, makerspace, hackerspace – but also each school or university labs – is called upon to throw its doors open to the public during that week And the goal goes much further: to make European Maker Week to become a regular yearly event in the interest of all, in order to celebrate innovation, inventiveness, technical culture, open source, and entrepreneurialism all over Europe.
European Maker Week is an initiative promoted by the European Commission and organized by Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition in collaboration with Startup Europe, and is overseen by Isidro Laso Ballesteros (DG Connect E.C.), Riccardo Luna (Italian Digital Champion), andMassimo Banzi (co-founder of Arduino).
European Maker Week is held just a few months away from two important European weeks dedicated to similar themes: Code Week, dedicated to coding, whose 4,000 events have reached upwards of 150,000 people, and Startup Europe Week, whose first edition boasted 400 events.