Birmingham City Council is participating in an exciting new project aimed at boosting innovation in the city. Funded by Interreg Europe, the Urban Manufacturing project aims to better connect the old industrial economy with the new, including digital technology and creative industries. This will be achieved by supporting ‘Collaborative Maker Spaces’ where people from different disciplines can work together to produce new products and services. One example of this is the Steamhouse project, located in Digbeth which includes European Regional Development Funding. Steamhouse aims to boost innovation by including the Arts in ventures which also draw on Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematical knowledge to develop new ideas, products and services.
The challenge facing Collaborative Maker Spaces is that innovation ecosystems can be disjoined where funding sources, human capital, institutions (universities/venture capitalists/ local authorities/policy makers) aren’t sufficiently aligned to ensure the maximum potential from collaborations. Similarly, poor governance and challenging business/financial models often undermine the potential of such facilities.
The overall objective of Urban Manufacturing is to ensure that Collaborative Maker Spaces thrive.
This will be achieved through identifying good practices in Urban Manufacturing; improving the related policies supporting this in partner city/regions, and monitoring the effects.
The partnership has identified three specific development themes in relation to collaborative maker spaces:
- Collaborative incubation
- Investment in collaborative R&D
- Commercialisation of collaborative innovation
Each theme has a grouping of cities/regions, who share that interest and will work together to make improvements to projects in their cities, or policies supporting Collaborative Maker Spaces by an exchange of best practice/ experience, peer review and action plan writing.
The expected changes are: an increase in the amount of European Social and Innovation Funding (ESIF) for collaborative innovation; an increase in the number of enterprises engaging with collaborative maker spaces; greater integration for innovation infrastructure; and indicators to measure the impact of policies, ensuring sustainability.
The main outputs of the project will be 24+ Good Practices; 14 Study Visits; 8 Policy Clinics; 13 Peer Review Sessions; 8 Local Stakeholder Groups; and 8 city/region Action Plans. These will be delivered alongside a comprehensive programme of dissemination.
The beneficiaries of the project will include innovation actors, policy makers, enterprises, cluster managers and Fab Labs.
The nine partners in the project are as follows;
- Birmingham City University (Lead partner)
- Birmingham City Council
- Lisbon City Council
- Lazio Region
- San Sebastian, Economic Development Agency
- Zagreb Region
- Municipality of the City of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava
- Vilnius City
- Business support centre Ltd. Kranj