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Made in China: Makerspaces and the Search for Mass Innovation

In China, making things is a national specialism: whether smartphones or air conditioners, a staggering proportion of the world’s everyday goods are manufactured in the country. Against this background, ‘makerspaces’ – open workshops that provide access to a range resources for making physical objects – have spread rapidly across China in the last five years.

Much has been written about the potential of China’s makerspaces, yet they are still little understood outside the country. There are few systematic analyses of China’s maker movement – even basic questions, such as how many makerspaces are there in the country and who uses them, to questions about business models, relationships with businesses and universities, and how and why they differ from their counterparts abroad, remain so far unanswered.

To answer these questions, the British Council worked with NESTA and surveyed almost 100 makerspaces in China, visited makerspaces across the country and interviewed founders and managers. The resulting dataset and report represents the most comprehensive picture of China’s makerspaces to date.