Australia has always been a nation of people who make things,
from the craftswomen of the CWA to the backyard tinkerers and
hobbyists - but moving from a hobby to manufacturing was not very
easy in the past.
That has changed with the growth of the "Maker" movement, which
has provided one way to move from hobbyist to entrepreneur,
unlocking the potential of many inventions to provide employment,
improve skills and boost local economic growth.
Until recently, technical entrepreneurs have attracted more
public support than hobbyists who have been left to develop
inventions largely on their own.
There are however two drivers changing this perspective -
"Makerspaces" and innovative government policy. "Makerspaces" are
community operated DIY workspaces where anyone can have access to a
range of tools and equipment, hardware and software. They are
places where people can collaborate on creative projects, share
knowledge and tools, learn and teach.
As recently reported in theAdvertiser, an idea by Kathy Reid for
Geelong to develop a "Makerspace" won the My Geelong, My Idea competition. We
congratulate Kathy on her achievement.
The involvement of local government and universities has been an
essential part of the growth of the Maker Movement, particularly in
the USA. They have become leaders in providing financial support in
grants or spaces to set up, and have encouraged collaborative
public-private partnerships and links to local manufacturing
In Eugene, Oregon the city sold an unused building in 2014 for
$1, which will be renovated and converted into a co-working space,
an incubator and a fabrication workshop.
There are also other opportunities for local government to
encourage economic growth in the start-up sector by way of
low-interest loans or rent-ceiling guarantees for maker start-ups,
or by amending planning schemes to reduce red-tape.
In Boulder, Colorado, "Tinkermill" describes itself as "the largest
makerspace/hackerspace in Colorado and the surrounding Rocky
Mountain region." Founded in 2013, with businesses and individuals
donating or lending machines and equipment, it is now a non-profit
public charity with over 350 paying members and over 1500 online
Its focus is on encouraging new products and business creation
through mentoring and the provision of onsite office and working
spaces and equipment, storage for projects and informal meeting
The recent addition of an advanced prototype manufacturing
facility will enable the co-location of manufacturing, engineering
and design. The monthly membership fees are modest - US$50
for an individual, $25 for a student and $100 for an organisation,
which can then give five of its employees the opportunity to
This is a project which creates businesses and jobs. "This
is where ideas become reality," said Clint Bickmore, the chief
technology officer of Change Composites - which used the facility to
develop a new bike helmet to better protect riders from the double
impact of a crash. "This is where dreams come true."
As Geelong transforms, and the technological barriers to making
things are falling, it is very timely to be developing the concept
of a "Makerspace" in our city.
Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive
Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter