The Fab Labs in Italy: New Local Collective Goods for Development

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Cecilia MANZO, University of Teramo, Italy
Francesco RAMELLA, University of Torino, Italy
The Fab Labs are small workshops, open to the public, that offer tools and services for digital manufacturing, thus promoting social and economic innovation. For these reasons they can be considered "local collective goods": they are created as part of the sharing economy and they are able to generate external economies, tangible and intangible, useful for development.

The rapid proliferation of FabLabs occurred in recent years all over the world (564), should be placed in this context. They function with mechanisms typical of the “sharing economy”: they provide a space with machineries that would not be available to individual users and small enterprises, and have two main goals: a) education, that is the diffusion of the digital fabrication culture; b) development, that is the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurialism. They operate connecting local resources to global networks and markets.

The objective of the article, therefore, is to explore the Fab Labs, with particular reference to the Italian situation. Italy is, indeed, a particularly interesting case, because while the official indicators describe the economy as not very innovative, it shows a surprising development of the Fab Labs. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to explore the Fab Lab from this perspective, having two objectives. The first is descriptive: we intend to reconstruct the geography and the characteristics of these workshops in Italy. We want to understand where, when and how they were born, and also what they do and what kind of links they have with local economies. The second goal is more explanatory: we intend to provide some hypotheses on the reasons behind their particular proliferation in the Italian context.