Which knowledge, skills and learning environments can boost Open Design & Manufacturing at meaningful scale? How can OD&M  become the ground of collective experimentation and co-creation between Universities, Makerspaces and Enterprises?

OD&M is a Knowledge Alliance dedicated to create and support communities of practices around the Open Design & Manufacturing paradigm, making the most of openness, sharing and collaboration to create new value chains of innovation in design and manufacturing oriented to the social good.

Through inspiring international mobilities, dedicated events, project-based trainings and innovative systems of learning outcomes certification, the OD&M community is committed to create a valuable environment of capacity-building for students, university staff, enterprises and highly creative and passionate people.

The P2P Foundation and its sister organization, the P2P Lab, are part of Open Design and Manufacturing platform, which has recently released an report. The report can be downloaded in it’s integral and reduced versions. Below you will find the report’s introduction, (written by Laura Martelloni, from LAMA agency) followed by its Executive Summary.

Introduction

Often, new professions and jobs emerge from transformations in the market.

They tend to remain in a grey zone where they mostly take shape through progressive adaptation and training on-the-job, until institutional education and training systems are able to recognize, codify, embed and scale them up into coherent learning journeys and learning outcomes, understandable by the labour market and the wider society.

Manufacturing in Europe is going through a major, almost unprecedented transformation. While it is suffering heavily from the effects of the global crisis and ongoing globalization, we are witnessing the emergence of a social technology-based movement, the Maker movement, spreading fast across the globe. Supported by ICT networks and by the establishment of physical spaces such as Fablabs, this movement is expanding its outreach across the globe, involving people with different backgrounds and mindsets that converge around common values such as ‘sharing’ and ‘openness’, generating a multi-faceted and complex knowledge.

The maker movement has opened the way for a new paradigm of production, called from time to time open manufacturing, p2p production, social manufacturing, maker manufacturing; although the plurality of definitions hints at the lack of maturity of the sector, its keywords – open hardware, open software, distributed networks, collaboration, transparency, among others – all point to the movement’s vocabulary and narrative.

These new forms of production are enabled by open source ICT and rooted in social innovation principles, they adopt open-ended business models and act at the level of ecosystem, they harness distributed networks and ubiquitous communities to unlock the inventive of peer to peer collaboration, and are able to imprint production processes, products and organizational forms with social purposes and outcomes. Considered in its potential to infuse production processes with social innovation principles and values, open manufacturing opens room to cultivate radical changes in the economy and society, able to preserve and grow the public good while steering disruptive paths of innovation (Johar et al., 2015). Open manufacturing has already reached a stage that offers the prospect of new jobs and businesses, but education and training systems across Europe are still stuck in the grey zone of unaware and fragmented intervention.

Within this framework, the OD&M project (A Knowledge Alliance between Higher Education Institutions, Makers and Manufacturers to boost Open Design & Manufacturing in Europe)[1] works to create a trust-based and collaborative Alliance between Higher Education Institutions, traditional manufacturers, and innovation communities of digital-savvy makers and open manufacturing businesses across Europe and beyond. The Alliance’s ultimate goal is to build a European enabling ecosystem that fully embeds the key approaches, values and principles underlying the open manufacturing paradigm, and turns them into drivers for a more competitive, sustainable and socially innovative manufacturing in Europe.

Focussing on the co-creation of new teaching and learning processes, as well as on new methods and models of knowledge exchange and capacity-building between the nodes of the Alliance, OD&M works to unleash a new generation of highly skilled and entrepreneurship-oriented designers and manufacturers, able to boost open design and manufacturing towards meaningful impacts.

The present report contains the results of an action-research carried out by OD&M between March and August 2017. The core objective of the research was to analyse how and to what extent the emerging open design and manufacturing paradigm (OD&M) is currently becoming the ground of progressive convergence and synergy between Universities, enterprises and maker communities, and how this ‘knowledge triangle’ is collaborating towards the creation of effective and meaningful value chains of innovation.

The research started by investigating the key competences and skills that presently identify and characterise the ‘maker profile’, in order to draw a general picture of how these are developed, in which contexts, and through which particular teaching and learning processes (formal, informal, non formal). Further, the research explored existing experiences of making-related activities and initiatives promoted or partnered by Universities, and discussed with Higher Education’s representatives the drivers, barriers and possible scenarios connected to the introduction of making education within formal learning. Then, the research involved professional makers and OD&M enterprises (that is, enterprises that show strong and direct connections with the open design and manufacturing paradigm) in order to get an in depht understanding of how making-related values, skills and competences are contributing to shape and inform their businesses. Lastly, the research explored the perceptions and opinions of ‘traditional’ companies regarding these topics, and discussed with them the potential risks and benefits that may emerge for them from the OD&M paradigm as a whole. The overall goal of the action-research was ultimately to identify gaps and opportunities for strengthening connections and collaborations within the OD&M Knowledge Triangle, enabling in particular Higher Education Institutions with new capacities and assets to play a valuable role in this field.

The action-research has been coordinated by LAMA Agency and has actively involved teams of researchers from: University of Florence – DIDA (Italy), University of the Arts London (UK), University of Deusto – Faculty of Engineering (Spain), University of Dabrowa-Gornicza (Poland), University of Tongji (China), P2P Foundation (Netherlands), Furniture and Furnishing Centre (Italy). The other partners of the project (i.e. Fablab London, Fablab Lodz and Tecnalia) have contributed as key informants and hubs of connection with relevant stakeholders in the targeted countries.

As the report will highlight, the action-research confirmed that the maker movement is a complex phenomenon that is nurtured by a continuous serendipitous melting-pot among cultures, skills, knowledge, learning styles, languages and attitudes. If this richness represents a fertile ground for innovations across manufacturing sectors – and probably beyond them -, it also represents a challenge for the codes through which Higher Education Institutions embed new topics and shape new mindsets on the one hand, and through which companies demand and search for new, innovation-oriented skills and competences on the other hand.

More research is needed to further encompass and systematize the wide geography of knowledge, competences and skills underlying the maker movement, as well as to better understand how and to what extent they can be encoded in a framework that is portable across life’s domains, and recognizable by different actors. However, the OD&M research represents an important step in this direction, providing insights and identifying a possible scenario of education, training and business innovation built upon an unedited Alliance between Higher Education, manufacturing businesses and maker communities, able not only to prepare the next generation of designers and manufacturers, but to spur innovation – and, in particular, social innovation – across the whole open design and manufacturing value chain.


[1] The OD&M project is funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ Programme, Knowledge Alliances strand. The project started in 2017 and will run over three years. It actively involves the following organizations: University of Florence – DIDA, University of Dabrowa-Gornicza, University of the Arts London, University of Deusto – Faculty of Engineering, University of Tongji, Furniture and Furnishing CentreTecnalia, Fablab Lodz, Fablab London, P2P Foundation, LAMA Agency. The project also involves a number of Universities, SMEs, Foundations, local innovation communities and networks across Europe as associate partners.

Executive Summary

The present Report contains the results of an action-research developed in the context of the OD&M Project (A Knowledge Alliance between Higher Education Institutions, Makers and Manufacturers to boost Open Design & Manufacturing in Europe), funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus+ Programme, Knowledge Alliances strand.

The main objective of the research was to analyse how and to what extent the emerging open design and manufacturing paradigm (OD&M) is currently becoming the ground of progressive convergence and synergy between Universities, enterprises and maker communities, and how this ‘knowledge triangle’ is collaborating towards the creation of effective and meaningful value chains of innovation.

The research started by investigating the key competences and skills that presently identify and characterise the ‘maker profile’, in order to draw a general picture of how these are developed, in which contexts, and through which particular teaching and learning processes (formal, informal, non formal). Further, the research explored existing experiences of making-related activities and initiatives promoted or partnered by Universities, and discussed with Higher Education’s representatives the drivers, barriers and possible scenarios connected to the introduction of making education within formal learning. Then, the research involved professional makers and OD&M enterprises (that is, enterprises that show strong and direct connections with the open design and manufacturing paradigm) in order to get an in depht understanding of how making-related values, skills and competences are contributing to shape and inform their businesses. Lastly, the research explored the perceptions and opinions of ‘traditional’ companies regarding these topics, and discussed with them the potential risks and benefits that may emerge for them from the OD&M paradigm as a whole.

Indeed, the different levels of maturity of the maker movement – and, more generally, of the open design and manufacturing paradigm – in the different countries, poses clear challenges in the implementation of this type of research; on the other hand, it reflects the reality of an emerging phenomenon and points to both the challenges of a common path, and the opportunities of building common experimentations at European level.

Read the full version of the report here

Read the reduced version

1 Comment Universities, Enterprises and Maker Communities in Open Design & Manufacturing across Europe: an exploratory study

  1. Marco Fioretti

    about this part:

    “the action-research confirmed that the maker movement is a complex phenomenon that is nurtured by a continuous serendipitous melting-pot among cultures, skills, knowledge, learning styles, languages and attitudes.”

    the DiDIY Project (www.didiy.eu) ran from 2015 to mid-2017, started from very similar hypotheses, and concluded releasing LOTs of research, reports and policy guidelines about digital DIY. We hope they will be useful to this project too.

    To have an idea of what they are, start with the (conclusions of) DiDIY Manual ()http://www.didiy.eu/public/didiy-manual.pdf) , and from report D8.11 (http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d8.11.pdf).

    Both I and all the other members of the DiDIY team are at your disposal to comment those results, receive feedback, and do more in the same fields. For more info, please email me at [email protected]

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