Open space

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Also called open innovation space or collaborative space, it is usually a shared physical environment geared with materials (consumables, tools and equipment) that allows individuals to learn, share ideas and projects, brainstorm and collaborate on projects, initiate new ventures. Examples are: makerspace, fablab, hackerspace, etc.

Geared for innovation and prototyping, including some very small volume production (manufacturing and assembly). they also play the role of incubators of early stage ventures (including startups).


The emphasis is put on transferring decision making to the users of the space. These spaces are called open because access to them has a very low barrier, usually open to the public. The norms and rules are designed to stimulate sharing of ideas and material resources among participants.

Grass roots open spaces

A grass roots open space is governed by participants, usually using a combination of democracy and meritocracy. The legal structure can be a non-profit organization or a coop. The space is member-supported. Some income can be generated through various services (events, workshops, technical services).

Institutional open spaces

As opposed to grass roots open spaces, which are initiated and maintained by individuals.

An institutional open space is controlled by the institution at the higher level, but small day-to-day decisions and programming of activities are differed to the users. The institution supports the space financially.

In recent years we have seen an increased adoption of the fablab and makerspace concept by colleges & universities and libraries. These are institutionally operated open spaces. The main purpose of such spaces is to provide a space for less structured extra curricula activities for students and to create opportunities (events) for learning and appropriating new technologies.

Institutional open spaces may be less open than grass roots open spaces.


Educational activities (workshops, hackathons) take place in open spaces. In the day-by-day activity there is a lot of peer learning.


Usually makerspaces are equipped with prototyping equipment such as 3D printers, electronic equipment, laser cutters, CNCs, etc. One can also find an inventory of basic materials, usually left over from past projects. These spaces also offer desks for co-working, gathering/public spaces. Also usually provided is a good Internet connection.

Currently, there is not a lot of production going on in open spaces, but more capacity of production is built in. The question is how much production will leak out of the institutional space, into the crowd? See Sensorica's presentation Design global, manufacture local.

Hybrid models have been proposed by sensoricans in the past, for example with the FabIci project at Robco Inc. in Montreal, Canada, where a local manufacturing plant builds an adjacent makerspace, for example, for brewing innovation and for prototyping stuff. When projects mature, production moves into the plant. there is a symbiotic relationship between a traditional firm and the makerspace (a new organizational structure). R&D is expensive and risky for companies, might as well open up a little space and have the local community gather there, brainstorm and prototype for fun. The firm's engineers will only get paid to take a working prototype and turn it into a manufacturable product.

Types of open spaces

From Sensorica's list of open spaces


  • Culture: commons oriented
  • Specialization: electronics and mechanical prototyping
  • Typical tools and equipment: electronics (arduino boards, raspbery PI, soldering, PCB prototyping, power supplies, oscilloscopes), mechanics (3D printer, laser cutter, CNC).
  • Access: monthly membership


  • Culture: DIY, entrepreneurial
  • Specialization: mechanical and electronics prototyping
  • Typical tools and equipment: electronics (arduino boards, raspbery PI, soldering, PCB prototyping, power supplies, oscilloscopes), mechanics (3D printer, laser cutter, CNC).
  • Access: monthly membership


Culture: hero cult, hacker culture

Specialization: software and electronics, crypto

Typical tools and equipment: computers and servers, electronics (arduino boards, raspbery PI, soldering, PCB prototyping, power supplies, oscilloscopes).

Access: monthly membership


  • Culture: DIY, entrepreneurial
  • Specialization: biology
  • Typical tools and equipment: wet and grey labware and equipment (glassware, fermentation, bioreactor, centrifuge, microscope, ultrasound cleaner, balance, thermometer, etc.), computers.
  • Access: monthly membership


  • Culture: entrepreneurial
  • Specialization: mechanical and electronics prototyping
  • Typical tools and equipment: electronics (arduino boards, raspbery PI, soldering, PCB prototyping, power supplies, oscilloscopes), mechanics (3D printer, laser cutter, CNC, welding, wood working).
  • Access: pay-per-use, monthly membership

OVN lab

The Sensorica lab in Montreal is a different kind of open space. Sensorica adds more economic capabilities on top of the basic open space functionality. On top of that, The Sensorica Montreal lab nurtures collaborative entrepreneurship.

Open lab network

In 2014 Sensorica launched the Open Alliance initiative in Montreal, initiative to federate makerspaces and fablabs in and around Montreal, under a shared IT infrastructure, to facilitate unhindered flows between these collaborative physical spaces. This was an effort to better integrate the physical platform for what we call collaborative entrepreneurship, and for peer production. These spaces were then, and still are today operating as silos, using a membership model for acquiring the necessary funds to maintain their infrastructure (pay rent and purchase materials), which leads them into a competitive dynamic, going against the core principles on which they were created, openness, sharing and collaboration. One desired outcome was to stimulate mobility of Montrealers between these open labs, and incentivize them to focus on building synergy through specialization, instead of increasing redundancy by competing on similar services. At the same time, Sensoricans were also involved in building collaborative bridges with academia and the private sector, trying to establish a niche for the open movement within the local innovation ecosystem.

Two years later, Sensoricans realized the hard way that our vision was ahead of its time and we designed a plan to seed this ecosystem by creating from scratch four to five complementary and independent open spaces, tightly interconnected by shared IT infrastructure from inception, which could make them interoperable at the economic level. This initiative is known as NOICE. The IT infrastructure in question was already a working prototype ,as part of the open value network model (OVN) that Sensorica practices. It consists of a Network Resource Planning (NRP), the equivalent of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) that medium to large hierarchical organizations use to operate. This technology requires a sound ontology and standards to ensure interoperability of independent, community-operated facilities, which may differ in specialization and culture. At the same time, sensoricans proposed a formal collaborative entrepreneurship model, as a distinct practice from startup and social entrepreneurship. Apart from endowing entrepreneurially-driven spirits for success within this collaborative ecosystem, formalizing this new model also helps to create a new identity, thus reinforcing the open culture and bringing it closer to self-sustainability. With the help of David Lametti, former parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, current Minister of Justice, we brought this initiative to the attention of the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments. This effort is still ongoing in 2022.

In 2022 Sensorica formally shifted from being a network to supporting a network of communities. This was reflected in a restructuring of the Sensorica website with the creation of Community page. This was done in response to multiple requests from various communities to learn how to better structure activities and build infrastructure. Later, Sensoricans started to build bridges with other networks, and created yet another structural layer Ecosystem.