A bricolage perspective on democratising innovation : the case of 3D printing in makerspaces

Beltagui, Ahmad, Sesis, Achilleas and Stylos, Nikolaos (2021) A bricolage perspective on democratising innovation : the case of 3D printing in makerspaces. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 163, p. 120453. ISSN (print) 0040-1625


The availability of digital technologies such as 3D printing can allow members of the public rather than only producers, to innovate. Makerspaces, where communities of individuals share access to such technologies may therefore support the democratisation of innovation. Yet little is known about how and why makerspace members use 3D printing to realise their creative and commercial ambitions. Through an ethnographic study, we identify a bricolage approach whereby makerspace members combine 3D printing with whatever resources are at hand in a makerspace, to generate innovations that otherwise may not be realised. In this context, we find bricolage entails synergy - combining resources in creative ways - and openness - a willingness to gather and share resources. We confirm that bricolage restricts commercial growth such that a need for more structured processes and perhaps a move away from makerspaces eventually becomes necessary. We contribute to theory by presenting makerspaces as a route to innovation in resource constrained contexts, or those in which neither a problem nor solution are clearly defined. This contrasts with crowdsourcing where problems but not solutions are defined, and R&D where both problem and expected solution are defined.

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