Thanet Star

How to cheaply make Thanet the British centre for technology

With just £70,000 Thanet could become the British Centre for invention and problem solving.

Given that the reported overspend by TDC last year was £3,000,000 and litigation with Turner Centre designers alone has run to £619,000 an investment of £40 thousand is a something the council should be able to find whenever they liked.

So how could £70k turn around Thanet's ailing economy?

In the USA MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms created an outreach program they called Fab Labs. In the video below Neil Gershenfeld talks about the huge potential for invention and innovation through access to fabrication (not to mention where we've come from and where we are going). click here for the short version

Fab labs have spread from inner-city Boston to rural India, from South Africa to the North of Norway. says the MIT website. Activities in fab labs range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in fab labs include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.

Neil Gershenfeld describes the surprising result of setting up these fab labs: in turn business started to grow he says (12:41) then he says that as scientists we're learning more from them than we're giving them

If that's not enough to knock your socks of at 13:01 he says there's now three students at MIT doing their thesis on scaling the work of eight year old children because they had better designs.

That could be happening this year right here in Thanet but for a small sum of money and a building to house a few basic tools.

Programmable Matter: Claytronics or Gershenfeld on singularityhub.com looks at micro fabrication including Neil Gershenfeld's fab lab project. They write Children, and adults, were designing chips, tools, and many other inventions to solve local problems. By providing the means, local solutions arose from local inventors.

The cost of this US$40,000 per lab.

What do these labs contain? just basic tools like a laser cutter, milling machines, a sign cutter and programming instruments. Now stop and imagine if we could build two of these in Thanet. Say one in Margate and one in Ramsgate.

Put them on the estates where traditionally people have a little more time on their hands then stand back and watch as human ingenuity transforms Thanet from a sleepy backwater to the centre for technology in the UK.

Now I'm going to head a few nay-sayers off at the pass on this one. No doubt some simpleton is going to suggest that Millmead and Newington are the worst possible places to build these labs and they would be (a) slightly right and (b) utterly incorrect.

These are not great places. There is poverty and crime and all those other issues that a housing estate suffers from. There are also a lot of people facing problems daily and thinking wouldn't it be good if we could just...

If an 8 year old in Africa can do in an afternoon what high tech companies require multiple sites and many workers to do then I think the people of Millmead and the people of Newgton are more than able to perform similar feats.

All I'm asking for is seventy thousand pounds and we could change the face of Thanet in a way that a big over priced art gallery can never do.

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Melissa [score: 0]:

Programmable matter really is the way forward...well done to Thanet for getting ahead of the game. This video: http://www.youtube.com/watc... shows a suitcase that morphs into a seat, a newspaper on a 3D billboard and touch screen Perspex handheld - Is it for real?
14/10/2009 15:52:25

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Thanet is not ahead of the game yet - I was simply advocating "Fab Labs" which are several steps behind programmable matter. Are you connected to the video you linked by any chance?
14/10/2009 20:54:23
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