A Smart Factory as the Core of an Innovation Acceleration Engine
From Bertrand Marquet, LesGarages.xyz cofounder
From Fablabs to mass production, the hard things about hardware
From Zero to One
If we look at what it takes to deliver a first hardware prototype, the barriers to enter have been drastically lowered. Thanks to Fabrication Laboratories (Fablabs), makerspaces and in general fast prototyping equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters and pre-made board e.g. Arduino, making the first prototype has never been so rapid. Prototyping hardware products have almost reached the fluency for developing web based services or platforms.
From One to Many
When scaling software products, agile and DevOps best practices can enable innovation at speed and with quality. Bringing hardware products at scale requires different, and sometimes unexpected, expertise and manufacturing resources, which include hardware design, control quality, and even more important fast response supply chain partners and manufacturing facilities in proximity. For complex products including electronics and mechanics, this can become time and money consuming.
The figure below shows entanglement of innovation (creation/validation) /industrialization (micro-production/mass production), market needs (traction/validation/penetration), effort to deliver (functional and industrial prototype and product) and required equipment (fast prototyping/manufacturing and site).
Fablabs are part of the problem, not the solution
Manufacturing equipment is different from Fablab’s equipment and cannot be easily acquired, accessed or manipulated. Fablabs are good at fast prototyping and bringing ideas to life but they are still disconnected from manufacturing constraints. The maximum effort incline is reached when bringing functional prototype (mockup) to an industrial prototype (pilots) as it required both access to new expertise and manufacturing equipment.
Funding is also part of the problem, but it should not
We currently see development of more and more seed investing funds, distributing money to early stage companies based on a nice mockup with no real idea if this really works nor scales. Moreover, few funds are investing in hardware product companies. It becomes even more problematic when companies turn to crowdfunding to fund production of first series of product. Most of the time, costs are underestimated putting the company in a very difficult situation not being able to deliver.
Therefore, many startups, after raising seed funds, leave for Shenzhen, considered as the Silicon Valley for hardware, to build their first series of products. Any companies including startups must think global, but acceleration should be addressed as a service, fast and local.
Elaborating an innovative response
A Smart Factory as the core of an Innovation Acceleration Engine
Our vision is to bring manufacturing site into the heart of a building dedicated to innovation and hardware acceleration. The underlying principle is simple: if this is difficult and time consuming to access different industrial sites and develop an industrial prototype, and produce first series, then do the opposite! Gather startups in one place and bring them the manufacturing equipment they need.
Our ambition is to build a manufacturing site dedicated to acceleration of industrialization of hardware projects (startups, SME or big companies). The integrated site must be generic and flexible to address hardware innovative projects, so not a classical one but a light twin of a “factory of the future” (also call factory 4.0). Of course, the integrated site will not be able to have all integrated platforms, it will be necessary to have extremely fast response supply chain partners. In any case, this will be transparent for accelerated projects.
The operating model is a “one stop shop floor” delivering all services and programs to accelerate the industrialization of the project. We target 100 days acceleration programs. Without any comparison, we have the same approach than Station F to be a startup campus hosting different programs and partnering with other incubation and acceleration programs but dedicated to hardware projects.
Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs) have lowered the barriers for developing innovation with digital models and tools. Factory 4.0 (also called smart manufacturing / Factory of the future) is introducing all those models into manufacturing. We want to bridge FabLabs’ outcome with smart manufacturing. Under Digital continuity we refer to the ability to take initial prototype model (functional prototype) and extend and enrich it with industrial constraints including validation and testing aspect that are fundamentals for manufacturing.
Attracting and Anchoring hardware startup and SME is a seed for re-industrialization
There is no miracle, startup stay where they find resources to grow. When startup leave to Shenzhen area, first we lose the startup, and at the end we lose control of the industrial process and manufacturing.
Along with industry of the future, attracting and anchoring hardware startup and SME is a seed for re-industrialization in France. If we can bridge, innovation, incubation, acceleration and industry of the future, as a technological and digital continuity, we will have a tremendous advantage to compete with delocalization and attract (and retain) talents. Station F in Paris has built a strong “tool” to attract and retain best innovation programs and therefore talents and best startups, we need an equivalent hub to connect and accelerate innovative and technological projects wherever they come from: This is what we propose to build with LesGarages.xyz
We are discussing with DATA4 and other partners to implement the accelerator on their Paris-Saclay campus in Marcoussis (Essonne).
Co-founders: Bertrand Marquet / Christian Van Gysel / Mathieu Lebouc
More information on lesgarges.xyz web site
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