Matthew Taylor of the Royal Society of Art posted an article on ‘Manufacturing a new question?’ Where he questions the the role of the RSA in manufacturing and commerce.
He points to the role of the RSA in enterprise (conflated with commerce) and the work of the RSA social enterprise network, their collaborative work with Prime promoting enterprise among older people and their Business Improvement Districts work. Interesting but limited.
Matthew rightly identifies that the correct point of departure for the RSA in such an arena is that of identifying the right project which he suggests is a ‘need to find a niche which combines our interest in policy and ideas with practical innovation.’
Interestingly Matthew suggests that an area which might be worth investigating is that of encouraging more people involved in arts and crafts to expand into small scale manufacture using ‘new technologies, not just the internet but other new applications, like 3D copiers.’
Consequently Matthew makes a call for a project in this area that he suggests be:
• coherent and engaging to the layperson
• innovative and distinct
• affordable (preferably externally fundable)
• capable of being piloted by the RSA (maybe working in partnership with others)
• with scope to engage RSA Fellows as partners
That Matthew suggests 3D copiers worries me – an odd term that suggests a lack of insight into 3D technologies but there is value in such approaches, distributed, local, accessible and networked.
It would be useful for the RSA to look at the Fab Lab initiative which originated at MIT (Gershenfeld), RazorLab, Institute of Making or organisations such as Ponoko and Shapeways where increasingly studios, designers and crafts persons run small businesses based on the production capabilities of the respective organisation coupled with the distribution capabilities of the internets.