How Corporations are Supporting the ‘Maker Movement’

By Scott Kirsner |  August 17, 2015

How can a makerspace benefit a big company? That was the question asked of Google, Chevron, Saint-Gobain, and SolidWorks at a panel held at MIT earlier this month. Executives from the four companies discussed what they’re trying to achieve by setting up makerspaces — a/k/a Fab Labs — for employee or community use, or a mix of the two.

Among the goals they discussed:

  • Training the workforce of the future in engineering, technology, and scientific skills
  • Encouraging employees to be creative and develop new products outside of existing corporate structures
  • Foster life-long learning among employees, and get employees from different departments to work together in new ways
  • Connect with inventors and entrepreneurs in a local ecosystem, who may bring new ideas to the company

Most of the companies say they’re still thinking about and working on that final issue.

“It’s a challenge,” said Alain Heureux, founder of the startup incubator The Egg. He’s working closely with $45 billion French manufacturer Saint-Gobain to open a network of makerspaces. “We need to do it, and I hear already within the company, what do we do with [intellectual property]? I can already see a challenge with the legal guys…but we need to do it.” One benefit of opening a door to work with entrepreneurs, Heureux said, is observing and ideally absorbing the agility and speed with which they approach new product development. Here’s a written summary of the session; complete video is below.

Here’s a written summary of the session; complete video is below.

How Corporations are Participating In Supporting the Maker Movement from Fab 11.