Makerspaces are hubs for an emerging innovation ecosystem on the African continent.
This ecosystem supports local manufacturing using techniques such as digital fabrication through 3D Printing or laser cutting, human-centred design processes and rapid prototyping. Makerspaces have become educational hubs for training the next generation of engineers and craftspeople. They support start-ups in design, prototyping and batch manufacturing. They support local factories that seek to develop new products and laboratories that seek to conduct research. They are places where young innovators could make a livelihood by manufacturing items using open hardware or on contract with proprietary designs. They represent a new paradigm of production – distributed local production, rather than centralised mass production. And they offer a way to support the development of new forms of economic growth.
But they are not well researched and demands for evidence of their impact are increasing, particularly from policy-makers and donors.
The Innovative Manufacturing in Africa Awards program is project aiming to address gaps in research and innovation systems in makerspaces and their ecosystems with the following activities:
- Strengthening the research capacity of makerspaces.
- Action research into decentralised production across 9 makerspaces.
- Common research for evidence of the impacts of makerspaces.
- Publication of a makerspace operating models website.
The impact of the Innovative Manufacturing in Africa Awards will be a significant increase in the research and innovation capacity and financial stability of makerspaces in support of sustainable economic growth and resilient livelihoods in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.