The JRC Makerspace, the first of its kind in an EU institution, is located at the Joint Research Centre’s Ispra site and has been implemented under the framework set by the Community of Practice on Citizen Engagement. The JRC Makerspace is a collaborative space designed to promote active participation, knowledge sharing, and scientific research through open-ended exploration and experimentation.
What is a Makerspace?
A Makerspace is a community-orientated space with a philosophy of sharing and a spirit of craftsmanship. Makerspaces are often valued for fostering new forms of collaboration and education in STE(A)M related fields but also as spaces that foster grassroots involvement in societal matters. The Makerspace concept was developed out of a do-it-yourself (DIY) culture and, as a result, a strong hands-on approach is always present. Learning emerges as the consequence of in person engagement.
Makerspaces are commonly equipped with a set of tools and fabrication equipment - such as electronics equipment, 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, and CNC Milling Machines - that allow individuals to create, hack, and remake their “world” as they see appropriate. Therefore, makerspaces provide an active learning environment by giving individuals access to both the collaborative knowledge and know-how of the community behind each space (whilst fostering collaborative problem solving) and the necessary tools and equipment to transform their ideas into reality.
Makerspaces, complementarily, can be used to explore more open and creative forms of engagement and issue framing. They can be employed for collective and collaborative experimentation, where critical deliberation about techno-scientific innovation are explored through material approaches that incorporate the crafts, skills and creativity of those being engaged, as well as privileges the material and experience of the issues that are being tackled - e.g. if we talk about health, we can use the actual objects (materiality) of that proposal such as wearable sensors, apps and other relevant objects that interest our discussions. The outcomes that can materialize from makerspaces can be inspiring as they often offer new approaches for looking into (and tackling) the societal issues that concern us all.
Why a Makerspace at the JRC?
The JRC has long been experimenting with different formats of citizen engagement in techno-scientific innovations. The Maker Movement – a contemporary socio-cultural movement spurred by inventors, artisans, engineers, artists, researchers, and in general, people who love to invent, create and share their ideas – is a source of inspiration on how to engage citizens in technology and science, and how to tackle some of our pressing issues both from an economic and social perspective. The JRC Makerspace was conceived, in particular, to support ideas of societal deliberation, co-creation and citizen empowerment. It is a space to explore new methodologies of citizen engagement, as well as on recent phenomena like citizen science and DIY movements as more profound and care-oriented forms of societal participation in techno-scientific innovation processes. Equally important, it will be used to investigate how these loci of knowledge production relate to the policy realm. In this sense, the JRC Makerspace is a space for experimenting on two different levels simultaneously: first, it is a space to critically think and tinker responsibly with potential solutions for contemporary societal problems; and second, it is a space for exploring and testing different modes of collaboration and engagement.
The JRC Makerspace is part of a network of more than 800 Makerspaces in Europe, and is looking forward to not only connect with this growing community, but also to foster the space for more open and experimental approaches within the JRC and the EU policy processes.
What facilities does the JRC Makerspace have?
The JRC Makerspace was designed to be flexible and to foster collaboration and creativity. It can host 35 people at a time, accommodating a variety of activities from hands-on workshops and co-creation exercises, to seminars. The JRC Makerspace is organised in different areas and it has a variety of machinery and equipment.
Existing Machinery & Equipment
To support the activities of the JRC Makerspace, a discarded air quality monitoring van was transformed into a mobile Makerspace capable of transporting the above equipment and hosting activities in communities and schools outside of the JRC.
Who can use the Makerspace?
The JRC Makerspace is a multidisciplinary space where any person, regardless of being a researcher, engineer, programmer, artist, or designer can feel comfortable and included. The JRC Makerspace is accessible to everyone. The space is freely open every day of the week, although it can be booked for specific activities.
One of the aims of the makerspace is to foster closer collaborations, not only between JRC staff from different units but also with external institutions interested in exploring particular issues at the intersection of society, science and technology.
The makerspace can be used, for example, by any cross-cutting team preparing or developing a project or initiative. Teams are welcome to use and re-organise the space as they desire, in order to fit their needs.
The JRC Makerspace is also open to proposals from JRC staff for the organisation of workshops that can help develop STEAM-related skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.
How can I book the JRC Makerspace?
The JRC Makerspace is accessible to everyone in the JRC. If you would like to use the makerspace for an activity, please send this request form duly completed to email@example.com. Please make sure to indicate:
- Type of activity
- Units involved
- Number of participants (maximum 35)
- Particular requirements
Bookings will be subject to confirmation by the team managing the makerspace. Please note that if you are not statutory staff from the JRC or other European Commission site, you are required to have a valid visitor’s daily permit for the JRC Ispra site and can only be in the makerspace during working hours, accompanied by the responsible of the makerspace. External requests need to be done at least 3 working days in advance and a copy of the visitor’s ID document is required.