The most common response to the question, do you know the nearest makerspace is a descriptions of the benefits that the local business incubator provides. The challenge for those who want to get involved in makerspace development is explaining that makerspaces really aren’t business incubators. They also aren’t co-location facilities nor are they business accelerators.
Makerspaces represent a new component in the economic developer’s tool kit. Most makerspaces for adults are like standalone high-tech machine shops while others can be seen as places where the next generation of fashion will be born. Makerspaces provide access to tools that can be used to produce prototypes for new products. You can also think of them as a vehicle for empowering a larger creative class.
Business incubators on the other hand are places where new companies can go to be mentored. Most provide access to funding sources and a pool of board members willing to help new companies take their first steps. Business accelerators provide many of the same services without the physical facilities. However, they both require passing a rigorous application process. Makerspaces tend to be open to anyone willing to pay the membership fees.
Co-location facilities provide access to the business amenities like conference rooms and receptionists of larger corporations. They tend to be real estate plays. This means that they are a means of filling up surplus commercial real estate space. They don’t engage in the rigorous application process and most are willing to rent space on a short-term basis. On the other hand, they don’t generally provide the specialty tools necessary to produce prototypes.