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VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas: powerful community growing like a snowball

VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas: powerful community growing like a snowball
Meet Adas Meškėnas, director at LinkMenų fabrikas – a makerspace, a creative and yet an academic space, something in between and even something else. He says the recent revival of makerspaces is turning people into makers interested in how things actually work rather than consumers and introduces a few startups that are or have been working at its premises.
So Adas, what exactly is VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas - a makerspace, a creative, and yet an academic space, something in between or something else?
Adas Meškėnas: Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU) Creativity and Innovation Centre LinkMenų fabrikas is all of the above-mentioned and more.
Simply put, it’s a collaborative makerspace with modern tools for learning, making, and sharing. Other than that, it’s a growing knowledge-sharing community where fellow makers connect, share resources and ideas.
What do you offer and who do you target?
Adas Meškėnas: We have everything from tools and spaces to people and know-how, allowing the implementation of the full product cycle including idea development, prototyping and market entrance. The main advantage of this centre is its interdisciplinary approach, which is also one of the strategic pillars of VGTU. As a traditional makerspace we have various mechanical workshops (3D, metal, wood, electronics, painting), and what makes us special, we also offer fully equipped media workshops (photo, video and audio studios, postproduction and 3D animation software, commercial printing).
This enables students from different fields to collaborate. Currently students from transport engineering, mechanics, electronics, creative industries, management and architecture fields are building an electric sports car at VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas.
Of course, developing a prototype is just a beginning of a successful endeavour – we are organising training and individual consultations on business development, IP and knowledge transfer.
VGTU students are our priority target group. But we are open for literally everyone. There are various ways to join our community – using our facilities for making and prototyping is just one of them. There is always something happening at Linkmenų st. 28 – science festivals, hackathons, start-up fairs, workshops, open lectures and much more.
What were the reasons behind the idea to launch VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas? Who and how came up with this initiative?
Adas Meškėnas: It came out very naturally. We always say that “humans of VGTU” are creative engineers with entrepreneurial minds. We wanted to offer our students the infrastructure enabling them to take their ideas from paper to physical world.
This aspiration resonated closely with the rising trend of maker culture in USA and Europe. At the time we started developing the concept together with our partner from the United Kingdom, Edinburgh Napier University, it was almost unheard of in Lithuania. Still it’s unique in the scope of activities and modern technologies not only among Lithuanian universities, but even in the private sector.
Now, after almost one year, we have a powerful community growing like a snowball. Engineers connect with artists, academia connects with business, people simply find each other and make things happen.
What do you think the recent revival of makerspaces means, where can it lead people to?
Adas Meškėnas: First of all, it’s turning people into makers rather than consumers. And this is just another wording for “fostering innovation”, really. People are increasingly more interested in how things work and how things are made. The world is shifting from buy and sell economy to production economy. Nowadays maker culture is also eco-friendly. Makerspaces are craving for broken and written off stuff. New products are born while reusing the parts of the old ones.

After the Internet revolution everyone was able to be a creator or a hacker: blogging, photo sharing, creating web content and what not. With the rise of maker culture, we can hack the physical world. Printing something fun in 3D one day, building a hardware start-up the next.
We all wish to have a thriving hardware start-up ecosystem, and yet true success stories in Lithuania have been sparse so far. What are the challenges of building a successful [hardware] start-up ecosystem? How can VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas help here?
Adas Meškėnas: HAX, the world’s largest accelerator for the hardware start-ups recently said in their report: “Hardware is changing everything. And there’s no app for that.” And we couldn’t agree more.
A comprehensive hardware ecosystem needs prototyping tools and resources (makerspaces), knowledge-sharing communities, hardware start-up accelerators, investors, crowdfunding platforms, etc. We’ve got the first bits covered: wide choice of tools, training, advice, and a growing community.
What are the most exciting projects currently being implemented at VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas?
Adas Meškėnas: The first project developed at VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas was a CNC pancake printer based on modern computer numerical control technologies. This is what happens when you tell a true maker to make his own breakfast. Some other fun things made by our team: a smart car/wireless power station, an electric scooter. Currently VGTU students are building and designing a small-scale formula style racing car, 3D printers, drones, producing video clips in the studio.
We also constantly have start-ups working on their own projects in our facilities. Most recently we have worked with Ortoplius (3D printed limb prostheses), isort (recycling bins), WeBlend (smoothie blenders), Warm Feet Mat (cable free, chargeable heating self-drying bath mats), WoodWe (wooden cases for Apple phones and laptops).
We really enjoyed Startup Olympics at your premises, let alone June's Hacker Games Hackathon. Do you have more events on your own agenda? What kind of events you focus on?
Adas Meškėnas: We focus on the events that educate the public, contribute to developing the maker community and help creative people find each other. We enjoy working closely for this cause and planning future activities with our friends at Enterprise Lithuania, Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), Vilnius City Municipality, Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, LOGIN, Build Stuff, Design Factory at Aalto University, Fab Lab Barcelona, and many others.
Currently hardware driven projects and events, media projects and entrepreneurship are our priority activities. We see it all as a part of a comprehensive eco-system. Complementary, interdisciplinary, connected – this is who we are.
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