A prototyping workshop, which has seven centres across the US and is looking to expand into Europe, the Middle East and Asia, has selected the Innovation Birmingham Campus as a location where it would like to establish a 20,000 sq ft facility.
A membership-based technical workshop and prototyping studio, each TechShop provides access to £1.25 million of professional equipment and software, including laser cutters, plastics and electronics labs, wood and metal workshops, a textiles department and 3D printers tailored to local needs. The facilities are designed to put state-of-the-art tools and equipment in the hands of innovators, so that they can create prototype products in order to launch new business ventures and seek funding. The business model for a Birmingham TechShop would be based on 1,000 members paying as little as £80 per month.
TechShop and Innovation Birmingham are seeking expressions of interest from academic institutions, public sector organisations, SMEs and large corporates with regard to potential multiple memberships. Once interest levels and a route to funding the facility is established, a planning application will be submitted to site a 20,000 sq ft TechShop building within Innovation Birmingham’s Digital Plaza development. A planning application for iCentrumTM – the first Digital Plaza building – is currently being prepared and it is envisaged that the TechShop would sit alongside it.
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “TechShop is a new and very exciting opportunity for Birmingham. It is the perfect accompaniment to iCentrumTM. Together, the two facilities will create a comprehensive package of incubation support for the translation of products and innovative services to marketplace.
“There have already been expressions of interest for membership packages from leading, global manufacturers based within the region, which mirrors the strong partnership TechShop enjoys with Ford in the US. The automotive industry recognises it as a place where fresh ideas can be generated more freely than within a corporate environment.”
David Hardman added: “In a wider sense, the community of D.I.Y enthusiasts, artists, entrepreneurs, engineers and product designers that TechShops serve is totally invaluable in promoting innovative thinking and translating that into exciting new products.”
As well as being a natural fit to the automotive industry, the TechShop offering is wholly relevant to aerospace, fashion, medical devices and life sciences, energy and renewables, hardware design and IT/digital. Workshops, classes and networking events are run by the trained technical team to harness the community ethos and forge new connections across and within sector specialisms.
Paul Duggan, Managing Director of TechShop International said: “TechShop democratises access to the tools for invention and innovation. It unites hackers and hobbyists with leading product designers and engineers – each of them taking huge value from working in such an innovative and collaborative environment. The entire spectrum of equipment that is available to all members feeds creativity.
“We recently announced an agreement with BMW to establish a TechShop in Munich, Germany; the first of 15 planned for Europe. Birmingham’s compelling strengths in the automotive industry meant it was the next place I naturally looked to continue our expansion across Europe. Having a critical mass of members is what enables us to keep the price point for membership so low. I hope we can continue to build on the very positive initial conversations we have had with organisations located across the West Midlands. Our intention is to have a TechShop operational on the Innovation Birmingham Campus within the next 18 months.”