Collaborating with the maker movement – MBA thesis


There is a lot of buzz around 3D printing and digital manufacturing (DM). Looking at communities of interest forming around the use of these technologies (so-called ‘Maker communities’), you will find a lot of research on the social and economic aspects of this movement (e.g. democratization of manufacturing, uplifting disenfranchised communities, re-designing how education is delivered etc.). At the extreme end of the spectrum, people claim that traditional companies will disappear as Makers gain access to an increasing number of value chain services that were traditionally only accessible to large companies. Established companies are starting to engage with Makers, e.g. through crowd-challenges, by setting up collaborative ‘Maker-spaces / FabLabs’ or even complete separate product creation value chains organized around open-innovation (e.g. GE and FirstBuild). But there is very little guidance on how to set up and manage open innovation successfully with such communities and what kind of value is created for companies that do so.

Goals of the management project:

The thesis project has the goal to identify how value is created for established companies and Makers when they collaborate with each other to create physical products. In addition, an attempt is made to define the value proposition and business model behind such collaborations in order to apply it to a specific case in Philips. To achieve this goal, the author has interviewed Makers and people from companies that are already engaged in these types of collaborations to provide answers to the following questions: what is the reason for collaborating? How are such collaborations managed? How does the collaboration enable company/Maker strategy? I (Guido) was one of the interviewed people.

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