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Dr Steve Harding discusses how we can make the innovation ecosystem work through networks, spaces and forward thinking.

Steve Harding
Dr Steve Harding

As we strive for solutions to often complex problems, we can be hemmed in by the very systems we operate in as we can inadvertently think in our own silos and comfort zones. This effect can be mitigated by membership of sector networks giving the opportunity to discuss in thematic groups. However, these networks need to benefit from ideas and perspectives beyond their immediate membership. To address this effect, “serendipity spaces” can offer a way to better connect ideas in places where conversations can easily occur. STEAMhouse provides such a space in Birmingham, focusing on how the arts can help catalyse thinking in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

The location is important – putting a highly visible university facilitated innovation centre on Digbeth High Street – a key thoroughfare between the commercial and creative areas of the city.

The Production Space in STEAMhouse similarly showcases a facility for artists and makers in the heart of the city to prototype their ideas and share resources and thinking.

The centre has an ethos of open innovation – sharing ideas to enable new perspectives.

STEAMhouse has a dedicated lab space for challenge events, workshops for Wood, Metal, IT and Print with STEAM co-working spaces and “tear down spaces” to make prototypes.

The idea of building the ecosystem of innovation spaces is fundamental to this approach – reaching out to arts and tech organisations across the city to further build on the serendipity effect.

Importantly to make the innovation eco-system work for all, the STEAM philosophy is just as significant as the physical facilities. To work effectively in interdisciplinary ways there must be mutual respect for the views of others. This is particularly so in Birmingham as a young and diverse city. Challenge events sponsored by STEAMhouse bring together a diverse range of perspectives from lived experience to give a fresh focus on problems. This approach is characterised by technology “pull” not “push”- bringing into focus the appropriate technologies and expertise from across the region. This leads to incremental change building trust for more profound interventions for Birmingham.

Through establishing the STEAMhouse centre in Digbeth, a key building block is now in place for bringing practitioners together based on passion, diversity, curiosity and resourcefulness.

For more information about STEAMhouse, visit us on one of our tours, meet the team, check out the facilities and find out what Birmigham’s collaborative makerspace can do for you:

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