Makers, hackers, craftsman from Brussels to Paris
Maker: mixing DIY with hacker culture, mixing arts and crafts with electronics and robotics. On Wednesday June 28, Belgian makers met French maker labs. The Innovation Train organised by Co.Station, BECI, Creative Brussels and BNP Paribas took entrepreneurs to discover the secrets of disruptive innovation in Paris.
First stop, the 100 entrepreneurs are all sitting in the same room to hear about Region Paris Entreprises, Paris&Co and Business France. All these structures are working to put open and disruptive innovation on the Paris agenda. They want to boost the investments, the economy and the employment in the region and in the city. They are collaborating with startups and entrepreneurs to create a real ecosystem that drives innovation in Paris.
Makers, hackers, grassroots and civic initiatives are reshaping the world as they open the eyes of traditional businesses, politics and academics on new concepts, new tools, different techniques and powerful communities. From rapid prototyping to open innovation, those makerspaces and fablabs as imagined by MIT Professor Gershenfeld are seducing schools, universities, public domains but also many Corporates like Saint-Gobain, Renault, Leroy-Merlin Bosch, Decathlon or BNP Paribas. Whilst the fablab concept is understood by many, it’s business model is still challenged. The idea behind the Makers Tour of Paris was to look at different initiatives and business models which could inspire our Brussels and Belgian initiatives:
For our fist Makers Track visit we went to ICI Montreuil: this space was set-up some 5 years ago by Nicolas Bard and his wife. Both passionate makers and craftsman decided to combine the fablab concept with a hosting model of local craftspeople. They visited the entire crafts community of their city Montreuil and asked the Municipality for a makerspace telling that this could create again some local arts production but also attract the unemployed youth towards a concept of Crafts 2.0. After 5 years of business, they have over 250 craftsman renting the place and equipment for their production, they also have through them access to more than 65 savoir-faire of makers which are offered as a Service towards Corporates but they have also developed a ICI Montreuil label, they opened a crafts shop, they have a community managed restaurant and they found funding based on their business-model opening soon 5 new “ICI” makerspaces in France!
Benjamin Carlu and the other founders of Usine.io saw in the fablab-concept the opportunity to develop the concept of a “FabLab-as-a-Service”. The most sophisticated machines but also experts and project managers are offered to small, mid-size and large companies allowing anybody to discover and use the facilities as offered by any fablab. More than 300 projects are running from year to year…and the group reached break-even after 5 years with a unique privately funded service offer.
Going from Usine IO to their next stop, the Belgian makers had the chance to take a small stop at Station F. As President Macron was going to open this new initiative on June 29, we understood that the owner Xavier Niel and his team couldn’t get us in. The successful French businessman known as the founder of Free, has decided to create in collaboration with the City of Paris the biggest startup campus of the world capable to host over 1.000 starters on a permanent basis. Don’t hesitate to visit them as of July the 10th it will be open to help startups and scaleups!
The tour continued with the visit of Leroy Merlin TechShop in Ivry. The Techshop concept was initiated some 15 years ago in San Francisco. It’s a chain of membership-based, open-access, DIY workshops and fabrication studios that welcomes people of all skill levels to come in and use industrial tools and equipment to build their own projects.
TechShop offers safety and basic use training on all of its tools and equipment in addition to advanced and special interest classes and workshops. Leroy-Merlin understood quickly the power for its brand and core-mission applying for the license in Paris. Student’s, SMEs and corporates can get trained and used to the world of makers in those facilities.
Le Square Paris (Renault Open Innovation Lab)
One step for Corporates is to discover the power of the fablab by connecting with existing fablabs or by opening internal fablabs. With large names like Renault, Airbus, Saint-Gobain, Leroy-Merlin and Decathlon using external labs or opening internal labs, we can see that the concept will continue to expand and inspire many others. But the second step is even more challenging for a Corporate culture: open the innovation process towards the world. R&D, Intellectual Property and Patents are challenged by the notion of open design open innovation or co-creation. Renault opened le Square in an old Renault garage inviting startups and schools to come and work together on Mobility challenges and new ways to collaborate together!
Last stop: the Residence of the Belgian Ambassador, M. Mertens de Wilmars. There, each participant had a chance to share their day with the participants from the other tracks, exchange business cards and enjoy a cocktail dinner.
Co.Station is proud to have supported this innovation trip and thanks BECI, Brussels Creative and BNP Paribas to have make it possible. We hope to see you for the next one!