Atmel heads to Shenzhen to talk Makers


Shenzhen has emerged on the Maker scene for its shortened development cycles, entrepreneurial spirit and DIY culture.


Sander Arts, Atmel VP of Corporate Marketing, continued his trip through China with a stop in Shenzhen on Wednesday, January 21, where he had the chance to explore the latest and greatest innovations coming out of the city, in particular those being created inside Seeed Studio — a hardware innovation platform designed to enable Makers to grow inspirations into differentiating products.

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There, Arts had the opportunity to sit down with the Seeed Studio team, including founder Eric Pan, to discuss the Maker Movement, open-souce hardware as well as Chinese DIY culture. Later on, the Atmel VP participated in a well-attended press event with a number of journalists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs to discuss Atmel’s place at the heart of the rapidly growing global movement, and of course, the Internet of Things.

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Recently, 35-year-old Shenzhen — which is located in the southern region of China — has emerged as quite the innovation hub, spurring Makers from all walks of life to delve deep into their imaginations and develop their ideas. Leveraging on its experience in manufacturing goods and access to parts, countless entrepreneurs, tinkerers and hobbyists have been drawn to the city.

“Shenzhen is a unique environment for passionate Makers with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Slate’s Silvia Lindtner explained.

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The city’s capabilities have aided manufacturers in greatly shortening the production timeline from ‘Maker to market,’ which greatly enhances experimentation and provides a reliable, cost-effective solution for startups. In fact, the last few years have experienced an uptick in new companies coming to Shenzhen to finalize their concepts with notable examples including Pebble and Oculus Rift, Slate reveals. Additionally, hackerspaces and accelerators (like HAXLR8R and Highway1) have had an integral influence on innovators, another surefire sign that the Maker Movement has, indeed, arrived.

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“Makerspaces will likely enable a new wave of tech startups in China as in the U.S. To be sure, Makers working with their peers are now able to more easily realize their goals, while bringing products to market with new platforms such as e-commerce sites and crowdfunding. 

Nevertheless, major companies in China are somewhat cautious about encouraging grass-root innovations, even though some of them are actively involved in a collaborative dialogue with Makers as part of a strategic open innovation strategy,” Eric Pan, founder of Seeed Studio, told in a recent interview.

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Developed in 2008, Seeed Studio is a convergence of manufacturing and a true embodiment of the so-called Maker culture. The company designs and produces its own open hardware kits, platforms and custom PCBs, while serving as a distributor for a large number of brands like the Atmel based Arduino. Moreover, it has even played a pivotal role in establishing the hardware incubation project HAXLR8R as well as the very first Maker Faire in Shenzhen.

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Just last year, MAKE: Magazine‘s Dale Dougherty announced the inaugural full-scale Maker Faire in China, which successfully recognized the significance of the city as a global capital for DIYers. An estimated 30,000 people walked the tree-lined streets to partake in the event, while 300 Makers manned 120 exhibits.

“Maker Faire Shenzhen shined a light on the externalities and ecosystems of making itself: the political regimes which regulate; the infrastructures which support it; the forms of work that drive it; and the culture and history that shape it,” an earlier Guardian article noted.

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“One thing is for certain. The inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people will help the Maker culture grow – and vice versa. 

The biggest hurdle, from what I can tell, may very well come from established educational facilities, simply because Chinese students expect to be trained in traditional methods when specific professional skills are required. 

However, exposure to multiple academic disciplines will encourage people to people think out of the box and explore different ways of approaching problems and opportunities. In addition, being asked more open-ended practical questions instead of simply memorizing facts would go a long way in encouraging students to try out real-world solutions,” Pan says.

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