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Student Showcase Archive

Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing

Funded by: EPSRC

Principal investigator: James Tooze

Collaborators: Opendesk, The Central Research Laboratory, Machines Room, Open University, MakLab Glasgow, Sustain RCA, DOES Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Oxford University Department of Engineering, Fab Lab London, Glasgow School of Art, Dark Matter Labs and The Institute of Making (UCL)

Manufacturing is changing. What we do in the next twenty years will shape our far future: the £150.7bn UK manufacturing economy will need to be reorganised and reimagined to respond to the profound forces of climate change, population growth, resource scarcity, continued urbanisation, and ecosystem decline. 

This RCA project is defining the place of open fabrication spaces (makespaces, fablabs, hackspaces etc) in a reshaped landscape of manufacturing, seeking hard evidence of the ways such spaces can contribute to local economies, skills and job creation. New technologies and manufacturing processes are driving the development of new business models and supply chains, changing the dynamics of work and communities, with immediate implications for industrial and social policy. 

The project explores how makespaces interact with existing manufacturing businesses, creating an agenda for sustainable redistributed manufacturing in the UK. It is changing how we think about and educate for a circular economy – where products, components, and materials retain their value, in place of the traditional ‘take, make, dispose’ approach that squanders materials, energy and the quality of the environment. 

The investigation operates at four levels: within makespaces, within localities and their supply chains, within digital networks, and in policy. The action research methods of the project ensure that it has immediate industrial impact in addition to higher level policy and strategic insight.