In some ways, additive manufacturing (AM) is like the internet. People know it exists, and may even have benefited from it, but the average citizen has no real idea how it works. Without at least minimal exposure to the opportunities opened up by digital manufacturing, it’s hard to expect the average consumer or business owner to invest in the technology.
Occasionally, enlightenment comes from unusual sources. Barclays, an UK-based banking group older than the United States, has recently launched Eagle Labs. Following pilot projects in Bournemouth and Cambridge, Eagle Labs seeks to introduce communities to the possibilities offered by digital manufacturing and areas dedicated as maker spaces.
Like any entity that has undergone corporate reshuffling or downsizing, Barclays found itself with more physical space than its business could use. Rather than selling off assets or subletting space, the bank looked for new ways to use the empty space. Eagle Labs is the result.
According to data supplied to Barclays by Opinium Research, nearly half of those surveyed have never sought or received training to increase their digital skills, and only a handful had done so within the last year. Eagle Labs is an effort to improve general digital literacy by offering access to what the bank is calling MakerSpaces and Incubators. From the press release:
“MakerSpaces — offering access to 3D printers and laser cutters, providing businesses with access to the tools they need to rapidly produce and test prototypes without having to import from overseas. The MakerSpaces will also be available for community events, corporate team days, training sessions around topics such as cyber fraud and coding as well as more basic digital skills training (Tea & Teach).
“Incubators — specifically targeting high-growth firms and entrepreneurs projecting 20 percent growth or more, and will benefit from collaborating with other like-minded business, and mentoring from Barclays industry experts.”
Obviously the focus is going to be on local businesses, which makes sense given Barclays can use the Eagle Labs as something of a recruiting tool to drawn new customers. Regardless of the motivation, offering business leaders the chance to see (or even work with) new technologies such as 3D printing for themselves may well broaden the appeal of those technologies. The move has even received a stamp of approval from the government.
“The digital economy is moving at a tremendous pace — digital industries are growing at a rate of 32 percent faster than the wider economy, and contribute around £161bn a year for the UK,” said Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister. “The need for digital skills has never been greater, and Barclays Eagle Labs is a fantastic initiative that offers incredibly helpful guidance, support and advice to local communities and businesses.”
Below you’ll find a video about Eagle Labs, though the sound quality is spotty.