A bricolage perspective on democratising innovation: the case of 3D printing in makerspaces

Ahmad Beltagui, Achilleas Sesis, Nikolaos Stylos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The availability of digital technologies such as 3D printing can allow members of the public rather than only producers, to innovate. Makerspaces, where communities of individuals share access to such technologies may therefore support the democratisation of innovation. Yet little is known about how and why makerspace members use 3D printing to realise their creative and commercial ambitions. Through an ethnographic study, we identify a bricolage approach whereby makerspace members combine 3D printing with whatever resources are at hand in a makerspace, to generate innovations that otherwise may not be realised. In this context, we find bricolage entails synergy - combining resources in creative ways - and openness - a willingness to gather and share resources. We confirm that bricolage restricts commercial growth such that a need for more structured processes and perhaps a move away from makerspaces eventually becomes necessary. We contribute to theory by presenting makerspaces as a route to innovation in resource constrained contexts, or those in which neither a problem nor solution are clearly defined. This contrasts with crowdsourcing where problems but not solutions are defined, and R&D where both problem and expected solution are defined.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120453
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Early online date19 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Funding: We acknowledge the support of the British Academy and Leverhulme for funding, provided under the Small Research Grant scheme (SRG\171063).


  • 3D printing
  • Bricolage
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Democratising
  • Do-it-yourself
  • Makerspace


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