New Brno digital lab aims to spark innovation in region

The biggest digital laboratory in the Czech Republic has just opened its doors at the Jihomoravské inovační centrum (South Moravian Innovation Centre, JIC) in Brno. Entrepreneurs and members of the public can sign up to use 3D printers and other cutting-edge technologies at Fab Lab Brno.

Jihomoravské inovační centrum, photo: archive of JICJihomoravské inovační centrum, photo: archive of JIC The 180 square metre digital workshop is aimed at getting enterprising locals more involved in technical fields by making expensive gear much more accessible, organisers say.

The centre’s equipment cost a total of CZK 3 million, according to Jiří Hudeček, director of the JIC, which has been serving as an incubator for companies in the region for 13 years.

Alongside giving 3D printing a go, users can work with state-of-the-art solders, robots, drones and cutting lasers.

Local startups can use the open-all-hours premises to create prototype products, while the centre will also prove useful to DIY enthusiasts, students and even artists, organisers say.

The manager of Fab Lab (the name comes from fabrication laboratory) Brno, Tomáš Mejzlík, said that visitors can take advantage of regular weekly tours led by staff, who will explain what its devices are capable of and how to operate them.

The digital workshop is divided into three different laboratories: an electronics workshop with solders and other equipment relating to the Internet of things, a mechanical workshop equipped with a CNC milling machine, and a 3D workshop with printers.

The digital centre was ceremonially opened on Wednesday by the mayor of Brno, Petr Vokřál, together with the governor of South Moravia, Bohumil Šimek.

Most of the funding from the digital laboratory has come from the South Moravian Region authority.

A lot of companies are based in the region, which has earned a reputation as a centre of technology in the Czech Republic, Aktualne.cz reported.

Deputy regional governor Jan Vitula said at the opening that local officials hoped to see the area become the country’s equivalent of Silicon Valley.

Mr. Vitula said the new Fab Lab would take some of the risk out of starting a company in the tech field, while also serving as a motivating factor. Prior to Wednesday’s official launch around 50 people had taken out for membership.

Registration costs as little as CZK 149 a month for access during set hours and CZK 999 for unlimited access. The venture’s main partner is US company Honeywell, which has a branch in the Moravian capital.

The centre is part of an international network of Fab Labs that has over 1,100 laboratories in more than 100 states.