Guest Blog by Paul Birkelo
Exciting news! The Lemelson Foundation has awarded $90,000 to help fund the startup costs for Gearbox, East Africa’s first rapid prototyping, design, and manufacturing facility. The press release on CSRWire also announced that the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID is expected to make a contribution towards the establishment of the facility, allowing the consortium of companies behind Gearbox — led by Ushahidi, the iHub, BRCK, and Sanergy — to move forward with finding a space and building a team. The Lemelson Foundation supports efforts to use the power of invention to improve lives. Noting the way that collaborative spaces like the iHub have built Kenya’s tech sector from the ground up, Carol Dahl, Lemelson’s executive director, expects Gearbox can do the same for hardware. “We are confident that Gearbox will transform the environment for invention in East Africa. It will provide a much-needed space for inventors to talk, build, test and ultimately take their ideas to market. We anticipate that inventions born at Gearbox will make people’s lives better and bolster local economies for generations to come,” said Dahl. Those of us working at the iHub couldn’t be more excited. While the iHub offers great resources for software developers, those working in hardware — from makers to growing companies like BRCK — have long needed a space with the tools, equipment and expertise to make their dreams a tangible reality. With Gearbox, this will soon be possible. A 10,000 square foot facility equipped with the latest in wood, metal, and plastic fabrication — including CNC routers, 3D printers, an industrial-grade electronics lab, and modeling shop — the space will become an epicenter for hardware innovation in Kenya. Gearbox will offer memberships that are open to the public, world-class training in design and manufacturing, co-working space for hardware entrepreneurs, services and office space for established companies, event space, and outreach programs to capitalize on the immense talent to be found across our community. So if you’ve got an idea for a brand new product or want to learn the principles and techniques for designing the things you use everyday, Gearbox is on the path to bringing the best tools in the world right here, to Nairobi! Visit the Gearbox website for more information.