Hi @noemi! You mentioned that I'm now doing "something else" after I left Access Space. Indeed! In a sense I am doing a very similar thing - but with a different business model and emphasis.
I left Access Space just after we'd delivered an incredibly successful EU funded project: Sheffield Community Network. The project's overarching objective was to create jobs and social enterprises in the Sheffield City Region, and my particular role was to investigate the local employment potential of digital making technologies, give support to local enterprises that were investing in these processes, and help understand what positive local impacts could come out of engagement with 3D Print, Lasercutting, CNC, Digital Embriodery and so on.
We (Access Space) were a minor partner, receiving less than 5% of the project budget - yet one of our clients, who we helped to prototype a key product, has created more jobs than the WHOLE PROGRAMME'S OBJECTIVE. How were we thanked for this? We had our budget cut.
That led me to feel that there is no future in publicly-funded programmes, particularly when they involve asymmetric power relationships - a local authority, for example, can simply dictate to minor partners how a budget will be deployed. This is partnership in name only,
So, I and my wife Lisa started "Makers" - a high-street shop which combines digital making and traditional craft activities with upcycling and re-use. Our objective is to take the lessons I learned from my research at Access Space, and deploy it in a context that's completely self-sustaining. Our logic is that, in these increasingly reactionary times, public money will not be available to help localities, so we'll need to make sure that what we do works on a completely commercial basis. This means that job number one is to SELL! Every other objective can only be realised after we understand exactly how to relocalise manufacture SUSTAINABLY.
If we can find this path, then the potential for replication is obvious. If not, I fear that the new "maker economy" will be so much hot air, and digital making will suck resources out of localities and neighbourhoods, just as have so many other waves of supposedly "decentralising" technologies.
"Makers" has a website here: http://makersontheedge.com. We sell things that we and local people have made, plus interesting old, curious and unique things that we acquire. What we don't sell is mass manufactured stuff. We also run craft and making workshops. Oh, and if you want to come and visit, and maybe to a Makers residency, we have a self-contained flat above the shop which we rent on AirBNB here! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13081880?preview
We're currently involved in a Horizon 2020 project, researching ways to introduce making into junior schools, encouraging engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and we'd welcome collaborations with other research projects. Hope to see some Edgeryders here in Sheffield soon!
All the best,