9 November 2011

A FabLab for Keighley?

"FabLab" is an abbreviation for fabrication laboratory. It is described in Wikipedia as "a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication." It is typically equipped with a range of computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim of making "almost anything". There are FabLabs across the world from Southern Ghana to Northern Norway including one in Manchester that I mentioned in my IP North West blog yesterday ("FabLab Manchester: Introduction to Intellectual Property" IP North West 8 Nov 2011).

Jane Keats gave a presentation that focused on FabLabs entitled "Factories of the Future" to Leeds and Sheffield inventors clubs on 21 Sept and 3 Oct 2011 (see "Jane Keats on 'Factories of the Future'" in my Inventors Club blog of 7 Nov 2011 and "LIG 21st Sept 11 Fablabs - Factories of the Future? Jane Keats" in the Leeds inventors Group blog). Also, the Keighley News reported that a mobile FabLab would be set up in Keighley on 8 Sept 2011 to coincide with the British Science Festival (see "Chance to go and explore Universe", Keighley News 8 Sept 2011).

In her talk Jane mentioned the possibility of a permanent FabLab in Keighley there are at last signs that that may be happening. Much of the equipment for the Keighley site was purchased some months ago and is now being stored at FabLab Manchester. Now the post of CEO for the "Centre for Manufacturing Excellence" at an annual salary of £45,000. The job advertisement notes that:

"The CME will also operate a Fab Lab. A Fab Lab is a digital fabrication laboratory, originating from MIT in the States around ten years ago to “empower individuals rather than institutions to be able to make almost anything”.Fab Labs are a facility for rapid prototyping and assistance with product development. Labs also provide educational and training workshops for schools, colleges and open access to the community.

The CEO on appointment will initially establish a smooth and effectively operating Fab Lab, exploiting different markets to generate revenue to sustain the Fab Lab operations.The Fab Lab will attract commercial clients, sole inventors, schools, colleges and a diverse community."
I drew these developments to the attention of Councillor Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees metropolitan borough council and deputy chair of the Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership at the LEP Summit in September. Councillor David Ridgway, another Kirklees Councillor has also offered his support.

The job description for the Keighley FabLab stipulates that the successful candidate will have "an understanding of intellectual property rights". That is to be welcomed though he or she and the interview panel should be aware that additive manufacturing technologies present particularly complex. As a starter, however, they would do worse than begin with the presentations that patent agent Tom Hutchinson, specialist solicitor Michael Sandys and I gave to FabLab Manchester on 12 Oct 2011.
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