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Smart Makers Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Written by Christian Saublens


The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote



The concept

Makers are DIY (do it yourself), as well as would-be entrepreneurs realizing the potential offered by digital tools (robots, 3D printers, …).

The emergence of new prototyping technologies, sourcing, CAD software, e-commerce and crowdfunding are offering new types of entrepreneurs such as makers and solo entrepreneurs opportunities that up to now could hardly be leveraged because of the market entry costs. Indeed, those new business models allow to dematerialize the creation of an enterprise. This is shown in the graph below.

Source: EURADA

A new ecosystem can be built at regional level enabling the actors of the four following pillars to work together in support of those Makers.

  • equipped with ever more sophisticated and affordable machine tools for laser cutting and 3D-printing, robots coupled with 3D-design software enabling makers to develop prototypes or manufacture very short production runs at competitive costs;
  • 3D-printing hubs and outsourcing e-platforms, i.e. businesses that enable makers to manufacture small series of their products;
  • crowdfunding, enabling presales and seed funding (equity and peer-to-peer lending);
  • e-commerce platforms specialising in the commercialisation of small series or single products and facilitating transnational deals.

This new ecosystem can be schematically presented as follows:

This ecosystem tackles four major issues faced by public authorities when supporting entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs starting a new business: (i) early-stage production and client search; (ii) local gateway for service sourcing; (iii) early-stage finance and consumer feedback; (iv) support to exports.


How to implement it?

As with all intervention in support of entrepreneurship, public authorities have three choices: provision, outsourcing or “laisser-faire”. When it comes to this ecosystem, public intervention can address eight areas including:

a) provision of funding to help

  • fablabs buy equipment and possibly cover their operational expenses,
  • crowdfunding platforms support their development,
  • co-investment funds connected to crowdfunding platforms.

b) advice for would-be makers or e-solo-entrepreneurs through detailed knowledge of the advantages and limitations of the five ecosystem pillars. A signposting system needs to be deployed, as well as bridges to the traditional ecosystem that will support business growth.

c) networking among regional Smart Makers ecosystem stakeholders and with other business support intermediary bodies. Support may include coordination of makers clubs and user communities.

d) raising would-be maker awareness of new business opportunities provided by the this  ecosystem.

e) framework conditions that facilitate the growth of these new activities, notably in the field of crowdfunding.

f) training in generic technologies that support the ecosystem and entrepreneurship with new target groups of would-be entrepreneurs. This may require support to set up demonstration centres.

g) analysing the industrial value chain of the region with regard to the use of 3D technologies, specialized software and e-commerce.

h) a reflection on education in entrepreneurship. The ecosystem requires both intellectual and technical skills and know-how. This eliminates the differences between "blue collars" and "white collars" and can foster entrepreneurship.

The table below presents the benefits of this new ecosystem for entrepreneurs and citizens as well as the types of public intervention that support it.

Ecosystem ingredients

Benefits for entrepreneurs

Benefits for citizens

Public authority interventions


Prototype production facility

Prototyping expert support

Low production costs

Delivering creativity

Interest in entrepreneurship

Object customisation

Support to buy equipment

Support for mentoring/ coaching provision

Participation in PPPs to develop fablab-type infrastructure

3D printing hubs

E-sourcing platforms

Flexible access to small-series production tools


Support for businesses providing 3D printing services

Crowdfunding platforms

Access to different (pre)seed finance formats, peer-to-peer lending and presales

Crowdfunding provides entrepreneurs with information about the market and also often about their first clients

Support for emotion-based projects


Financing of business projects

Communication with entrepreneurs

Investment in co-financing funds

E-commerce platforms

Access to local and global clients without the need to invest in a distribution system

Buying products through dematerialised commercial channels

Verifying the usefulness of a space to promote regional products, including from within a generic platform

Advising entrepreneurs on how to leverage e-commerce


Step in the RIS process

  • Step 1: Analysis of the regional context and potential for innovation
  • Step 4: Identification of priorities
  • Step 5: Definition of a coherent policy mix, roadmaps and action plan


What can be expected?

  • The support to a new generation of entrepreneurs.
  • The take up of new manufacturing paths leading to an industrial renaissance.
  • A support to the regional digital agenda.
  • A diversification of the regional industrial fabric thanks to the advantages offered by the advanced manufacturing tools such as:
    • robotisation of complex shapes
    • lowering the volume to be produced to reach the break even point
    • making products easier to be repaired and thus proposing a longer lifetime
    • creating personalised items
    • lowering entry costs for niche producers
    • quicker delivery of customised products
    • mass production of personalised items allowing to move from a choice of different options to the production of a unique individualised one.
  • The 3D-printing technology will obviously impact sectors/activities such as:
    • manufacture (Boeing is already producing 200 parts with that technology);
    • construction (project to build a whole house)
    • health care (producing human cells)
    • after care and repair industry
    • use of new materials in industry
    • fashion and jewellery
    • agro-food and cooking
  • 3D-printing will also offer SMEs a new position in their sectorial value chain.


A quote

“Here everyone exchanges on all topics at the crossroads of technology, DIY, arts and science.” by Bertier Luyt, CEO of LeFabShop and organizer of the Paris Maker Fair



  • Smart Makers Entrepreneurial Regional Ecosystem, EURADA 2014
  • Les Makers, pionniers de l’industrie de demain – Les Echos, 17/06/2014, page 11
  • Makers – Chris Anderson, Pearson 2012


Mr Christian Saublens


Christian Saublens has more than 30 years of working experience in European trade organizations. Since 1992 he is the Executive Manager of EURADA, the European Association of Development Agencies, a network of 145 organisations. Christian has been involved in the organization of numerous conferences and meetings dealing with all matters related to regional development. He wrote several papers and working documents on business support schemes for SMEs. He played an important role for the dissemination in European regions of concepts such as benchmarking, business angels, investment readiness, proof of concept, clusters, open innovation, financial engineering, crowdfunding, … Several times Christian has been appointed as an expert by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.