Visiting Italian FabLabs

Last week we have responded to the invitation of Development Centre Novo Mesto which is a partner organisation in international Erasmus+ project INCOME. INCOME project is focusing on the issue of the high rate of unemployment of young people in EU. Between February 19th and 22th we have visited neighbouring Italy, the Veneto region, and have made some exchange of knowledge and experiences in the field of FabLabs and coworking spaces. We have seen different creative, innovative and business environments connected to FabLabs.

We were hosted by the organization Samarcanda, located in the town of Schio, Italy. Cooperative Samarcanda works in the field of social work and the integration of refugees into society, but has also created coworking and FabLab facilities in their premises, which are united under the name MegaHub. Coworking space mostly offer working tables to providers of IT services, while FabLab’s work focuses primarily on craftsmanship skills. With all the craftsmanship and technological equipment that MegaHub offers to the local environment, they are also involved in numerous projects, trainings and workshops organized in various fields. MegaHub is also a member of the regional FabCube network, which connects most of FabLab’s in Veneto region, including all we have seen during our visit.

In Padova we have visited the Business Centre Paradigma which represents a kind of synergy between different business models and opportunities. The Centre combines five start-up companies operating in a common coworking space (enabling mutual sharing of knowledge and joint projects), while offering open coworking space and FabLab Padova for external users. In the future they also plan to set up premises for trainings, educational workshops and some space for office work and this will greatly expand the scope of their work. Contrary to the broad and more business oriented approach of the Paradigma, Verona FabLab in Verona is a much smaller FabLab, but its involvement in the local environment is by no means smaller. Like the MegaHub, Verona FabLab also offers some facilities to craftsmen (e. g. ukulele maker, paper maker) and some technologically equipped rooms but this does not exclude cooperation with slightly more technologically oriented interests, as one of the co-workers also covers the field of robotics. FabLab successfully cooperates with other similar organizations in the surrounding area and actively participates in various fields of elementary education.

The last of the FabLabs, who shared their experiences with us was Creta FabLab, located in Bassano del Grappa. The smallest of all FabLabs we have visited is part of a wider creative community consisting of coworking spaces and a larger space for carrying out workshops, trainings or other events relevant to the local community. Within its premises, Creta also hosts artists from different fields, but the greatest is the demand for renting a co-working spaces which they are always lacking.

In addition to all the creative spaces we have seen, we were also acquainted with an innovative virtual community, united under the name SpazioHub (Thiene, Italy). This is some kind of business incubator, that does not actually have their own premises, but they occasionally organize meetings that are hosted in local public spaces. Their projects are open to everyone but are primarily addressing young people who and encourage them towards entrepreneurial thinking.

During the visit we have also visited a representative of the regional authorities, who is responsible for the development of the region in accordance with the Veneto Digital Agenda 2020. We talked about the various possibilities of financing, maintaining and engaging, both individual FabLabs and the network as a whole. Exchange of experience and information was more than successful!

To sum up our thoughts: in the light of the experiences we have gained in Italy, the reason for the establishment of FabLab comes primarily from two tendencies: 1. the need for new, different spaces that complement the formal education of young people, especially in the technical fields – considering the market needs they need to be further developed; 2. the need for environments where it is possible to collaborate (on joint projects) and quickly test the ideas, i.e. make prototypes.

We are looking forward to new similar exchanges of know-how solutions and we look forward to see Italian partners in March when they will visit us in Ljubljana.