Catalytic Innovation: Affordable quality makerspace


Let’s look at another example of catalytic innovation, this time from East Africa, Kenya.

Often we are told that many successful startups started from humble beginnings by starting a in a garage such Apple, Microsoft, Google.

In Africa, where having a house with a garage is a luxury.

In Nairobi, a garage is something most entrepreneurs don’t have.

Meet Dr Kamau Gachigi. He has spent a number of his years in Engineering working towards, not only having more engineers through lecturing, but also having engineers who make stuff.

He is the founder of Gearbox, a non-profit organization that provides members with access to modern machines for proto-tying and low volume manufacture.

Gearbox also does training and incubation and acceleration services in order to broaden access to manufacturing in Kenya.

The Gearbox model is like a gym, you pay monthly membership fee and get access to any machine you want to use for produce hardware.

Is Gearbox catalytic innovation?

Let’s test it against the traits of what makes catalytic innovation:

  1. Social Impact: Creating more entrepreneurs, creates jobs, alleviates poverty and uplifts lives
  2. Scalable: Sharing space gives access to more entrepreneurs.
  3. Affordable: Gearbox charges around $50 per month on use of the space with tools and machines, vs. Market price for a workshop space without tools and machines is more than $200 per month
  4. Generate resources: Gearbox has been to access funding from various organisations including international organisations.
  5. Disparaged or looked down: sharing space with other people instead of having your own fancy workshop is often frowned upon.

Kamau through Gearbox has been able to democratize access to working space to thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs who could not access it because it was not affordable.


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