The FabLab innovation: where do we stand?

The FabLab innovation: where do we stand?

The stagnation of the economic growth and industrial development could induce us to believe that the time of fabrics has come to an end. Conversely, the emergence of the mounting trend of the so-called “start-up” phenomenon is modernizing the way of doing business. Moreover, the scenario comprehends a different category, namely the one of the FAbLabs.

Although it is difficult to classify strictu sensu the different typologies of Labs, there are common qualities that can be traced for all. Indeed, it is not difficult to accept as a common denominator that those LABs represent a melting pot for the fabrication of social energy. To put it alternatively, citizens, machines, methods and ideas altogether create a tangible output for the surrounding community within this co-working spaces.

In this sense, the added value is represented by the contribution of multiple stakeholders, especially citizens, which eventually inject novel inputs in the mechanisms.

So for example, the idea of the FAbLabs entails the possibility to create a physical and digital hub whereas people can work together exchanging ideas, projects, competencies and experimenting innovation as consequence of autonomous initiatives.

In a sense, the path opened by the culture of co-working LABs is a good premise for designing and developing new practices for social inclusion and community growth.

Nonetheless, bringing the concept of social innovation to the market has also the effect of redefining the roles and the objectives of enterprises, municipalities and even universities. In fact, it is not uncommon that even universities try to install ideas and incubate projects in order to produce high quality series of tangible and intangible products.

This is for instance the case of affiliation with European Universities, as in the case of VUB in Bruxelles (see more here).

FabLabs are indeed a sort of Fabric of Labour, as well as a space for cultural innovation, knowledge production and eventually a place for nurturing social cohesiveness.

But more surprisingly these spaces, even if limited in number, are slowing popping-out as a good alternative to fit the needs of a socio-economic renovation.

In Italy for example, there are at least 43 relevant spaces for running this kind of social innovation, as showed in the map here.

Besides, supporting institutions and policies can set a milestone in terms of social innovation, for example through the recognition of the co-working method as a referential practice of governance.

However, in relation to FabLabs, there are still lot of dynamics and themes that have to be further investigated and those are briefly the following:


1) Fundraising and accession criteria

2) Added value of the social enterprise

3) Governance method and redefinition of public spaces

4) Pact of collaboration with the public administration

5) Census of actors and activities

6) Real estate speculation

7) Political project – civic targeting- social dialogue


That said, there are also good instances of social planning, as the one envisioned in 2014 by the Lazio Region within the “Lazio Creativo Planning”.

But other examples can be easily found, for instance in our previous article here.

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La recente evoluzione del fenomeno dei FabLab, si ricollega alla necessità di rilanciare le economie di produzione , tenendo in considerazione allo stesso tempo il valore delle dinamiche socio-culturali.

Laddove le fabbriche non sono più in grado di sostenere la crescita economica e le start-up non sono ancora sufficientemente radicate sul territorio, la categoria del FabLab si inserisce allo stesso tempo come strumento di innovazione sociale e di sviluppo industriale.

Il concetto di base è quello di creare spazi di collaborazione, ove il comune cittadino – e non solo – possano sperimentare tecniche, metodi, idee e pratiche di produzione di qualità.

L’idea principale del FAbLab, cosi come delle sue varianti, è quella di creare un hub fisico e digitale che possa produrre output tangibili per la comunità circostante.

In Italia per esempio esiste già un rigoglioso ambiente per sperimentare l’ innovazione sociale, supportato spesso da politiche di pianificazione ed inclusione sociale, tra cui il piano Lazio Creativo.