Shared working places create synergistic relationships and foster innovation.
Innovation is an important aspect of the conception of smart cities. As populations rise and urban density continues to increase, cities are facing new complications, in regard to transportation, connectivity, and even housing. Innovation plays a significant role in finding ways to solve these nuanced problems, as well as in continuing to develop progressive products. One vital method that smart cities, in particular Eindhoven and Berlin, have used to foster innovation is providing shared workplace ecosystems for adolescent start-ups, and giving them access to equipment and working space.
On July 6th, students visited a building purchased by two brothers in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The brothers restored this older building to create workspace for entrepreneurs to pursue a newborn idea. They named their facility the Microlab, the place for makers, creators, and innovators. On the ground floor of this high rise building, is a work shop, equipped with tools, machines, and any sort of equipment that the startups might utilize. Above the workshop a few floors up in the Microlab building, is traditional office space, where many different small entrepreneurs call home. New businesses can rent the mode of space that is most appropriately suited to their needs. Microlab offers different rates depending on the customer’s request. For instance, one could just rent a desk for 175 euros a month or access to the downstairs workbench for the same price. The companies are also able to rent out resources as they need them, such as conference rooms or presentation rooms. The idea of shared work space is to bring different companies together to construct a synergetic relationship. On every floor, Microlab provides a common room with tables, and a bar where workers could discuss a new idea over a beer or cup of tea. Regardless of the size of the space the customer rents, they always have access to this shared area, which is one of the reasons Microlab is so successful in promoting startups. However, in most cases, due to the low cost of rent rental contracts for these startups are are limited to 5 years.
On July 13th, in the startup capital of Europe, students toured a similar location called CleanTech Innovation Center Berlin. Focusing mainly on clean energy and technologies, this area provided the ideal infrastructure for young companies entering the field. One advantage of this shared ecosystem space is its close proximity to the CleanTech Business Park, which is roughly 90 hectares of industrial area where clean tech companies can prosper. This area is typically where the more successful startups transfer after their contract with the shard spaces is finished. CleanTech Innovation Center also works hand in hand with many political, financial, scientific and economic communities. This is valuable for smaller companies aiming to expand their network. Lastly, CleanTech Innovation Center even provides small spaces within the shared space for computer programmers or other workers who’ve lost track of time to catch up on sleep late at night. CleanTech Innovation Center and similar places, catalyze the growth of small scale industry in Berlin, allowing the city to truly become the startup capital of Europe.
To transform the RTP area into a smarter city, similar shared working ecosystems could be useful in making the area technologically progressive. At the current moment, the only promoter/incubator in the region is the American Underground, which has three locations in Durham, and one in Raleigh. With similar amenities as the facilities students have seen in Europe during our tour, the American Underground is perfect for entrepreneurs working in the technological sector.
With the shared innovative workspaces observed in Eindhoven and Berlin, problem solving follows. The RTP area could prosper with the implementation of more shared working spaces like those in Europe. Shared Innovation Work Spaces allow regular citizens to bring out their ideas, and that’s what innovation is all about.