The 2016 Fablab Festival was a great success. 7,500 visitors discovered DiY robots, drones, 3D printing or bioluminescence. But this meeting is also one for the community that has structured itself into the French network of fablabs.
Toulouse, special envoy
Vikings, robots, makers, drones and visitors by the thousands; the creation of the French network of fablabs (RFFLabs) and the cornerstone of a Francophone network… The 2nd edition of the Fablab Festival in Toulouse from May 5-8 confirmed its promises.
Makery, partner of the festival, followed this event live that brought together 60 French fablabs and “around twenty from abroad”, according to Claude Soria, from Artilect, the oldest fablab in France, organizer of the event. There was a strong Francophone attendance, 300 makers that gathered on the first day, for a general attendance of 7,500 visitors (5,000 last year). On-the-spot assessment.
Creation of the French network of fablabs, the RFFLabs
The first foundation stone was laid in Toulouse during the 2015 edition. One year later, the festival was beginning its 2016 edition with the constituent general assembly of RFFLabs, having spent the year talking about it online and in Paris, not without turmoil. But in Toulouse, the atmosphere was friendly, it was about ratifying the association that makes its goal to federate fablabs in France under the banner of the Fab Foundation charter. To begin with, a white paper on local and regional authorities will be written. 55 French fablabs are members of the RFFLabs.
Embryo of a Francophone network
Artilect wanted to make the Fablab Festival a European meeting. With the presence of several makers from Africa and the official visit of the Moroccan Research Secretary of State, the Francophone path is favored. “The Secretary invited invited 8 fablabs from Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Belgium and France to come and show at COP22 next November prototypes that address environmental issues,” explains Alexis Janicot from Artilect. A first step for a network of Francophone fablabs?
The Fab Foundation: “We need you”
Sherry Lassiter, director of the Fab Foundation and patron of the festival, gave a political speech during her conference, running through all the partnerships and projects initiated and supported by the organization created within the MIT by Neil Gershenfeld. She talked about projects that “change the world” (as a nod to the 2016 theme of the festival, “fablabs are life-changing”), start-ups and education, innovation and sustainable development. So the fablab can do everything? Even video games? Of course! The prototype of “Fab the Game”, developed by E-Line Media (noticed for its game Never Alone) can be seen in six months, she promises.
“We need you, she said to the makers. We want to guarantee the quality of projects and synchronize the network to offer the same quality.” Finally, she invited everyone to the Fab12, the international conference of labs, this summer in Shenzhen (China).
The festival of the public
The huge exhibition hall of Artilect was crowded throughout the weekend. Despite the Autan wind that made the metal sheets of the building rattle, most varied conferences following each other (architecture and design, economics and commons, regulations in terms of drones…), workshops for the young and the less young (sumo, soap, Arduino…), drone races and demos of robots, making fabric from Kombucha, seduced a family audience.
Contradictions and debated issues
On one side, barcamps to talk about health, education, commons, and on the other, a “pro” day focused on the best way to go from prototype to mass production, where the presence of manufacturers was noticeable (from Dassault Systèmes to Air France).
Is there a contradiction between the defense of open source, of a contributive and collaborative model, and the search for innovation and incubation of start-ups? “How does one keep one’s soul?” summarizes Teddy from Artilect at the end of a barcamp: “Through evangelism, by resorting to co-contracting as opposed to subcontracting, partnerships and independence from subsidies.” Makers are suffering from wearing multiple hats: innovator, entrepreneur, evangelist, volunteer… Multitasks that are sometimes contradictory.