The VUT’s Idea 2 Product Lab aims to follow a holistic product development approach, with the focus on on manufacturing of the total product — including design, fabrication, testing and debugging, monitoring and analysis and documentation of the process.
It will also facilitate speer-to-peer learning, which contribute to personal development of the participating students. This also adds to the project’s sustainability. The lab and its infrastructure are not just about material manipulation, but also allow for rapid development of innovative concepts.
In addition, rapid learning is possible and innovations can be prototyped in hours by literally anybody. The VUT’s Idea 2 Product Lab is therefore also a training infrastructure that teaches students, innovators, entrepreneurs and business people how to use the tools and make almost anything. The VUT’s staff and students will be doing ongoing research to introduce new tools and facilities to the lab that can assist users to “almost make anything.”
The VUT is also using the Idea 2 Product Lab to engage with other universities (both nationally and internationally) to participate in basic research for the Idea 2 Product Lab, and then to introduce new innovations to benefit the local community or solve local industry problems. It furthermore will support the overarching goal to instill innovation as core curriculum in all learning programmes.
Various international institutions have already reacted on the initial presentation of the concept, and would like to engage in collaborative development work. Internationally, it is expected that the next phase of the digital revolution will go beyond the current wave of personal computation to personal fabrication, and South Africa will have to move in the same direction to facilitate support and infrastructure for learners and local communities to keep up with development.
The VUT’s Idea 2 Product Lab will empower people through having access to personal fabrication. The Idea 2 Product Lab should be seen as a catalyst to create an innovation culture in the region. In fact, innovation is often born out of the blending of indigenous knowledge with technological inputs from the developed world. The key is to facilitate the proper exploitation of the indigenous knowledge through proper infrastructure and processes and to assist South Africa to jump an industrial stage and decentralize manufacturing.
The Vaal University of Technology (VUT), through its Technology Transfer and Innovation activities, is ready to roll out the Idea 2 Product Lab, and is very well positioned to reach out to communities in the Southern Gauteng and Northern Free State.
Having Idea 2 Product Labs available in the region (ideally situated on campus, within the Sebokeng and Chemcity areas), individuals will be engaged in Science, Engineering and Technology awareness programmes, but will also have access to base-line technology that can stimulate innovative new product development and ultimately entrepreneurship.