Is manufacturing of the future open source?

In the spring of 2016, Elon Musk and his company Tesla stopped enforcing their patents, and Google, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM are all going open source with various robotics, artificial intelligence and phone projects. A trend is emerging: Is future manufacturing open source?

Open Desk builds furniture as open design.
© Rory Gardiner

Giants such as Google and IBM have lately been followed by Canadian D-Wave, the leading developer of quantum computers, which opened up parts of their platform in January. But it’s not just the large, financially strong American technology companies who are painting the picture of open source as a global megatrend. Start-ups and small to medium-sized companies all over the world, and not just within the tech industry, are creating new and exciting open source-based physical products. 3D Robotics, Arduino and the British furniture company Open Desk, which is creating open design furniture in collaboration with 600 furniture creators all over the world, are just a few examples of how open source has become the foundation of some of the most innovative and interesting business models of our time.

Danish Design Centre has dived into this trend for the past year; a trend which is part of a large wave of technological disruption and digitization and which is currently top of mind for many companies. How do you get started with digitization, and how do you know if open source manufacturing is the future of your company? These questions aren’t easy to answer.

Growth programme for curious Danish production companies

This is why we, in collaboration with a range of partners, have initiated REMODEL, which is a growth programme for Danish manufacturing companies who wish to explore and develop new business models based on open-source principles, and which are tailor-made to fit their industry and their specific situation. REMODEL demystifies a complex concept and helps the company develop economically sustainable business models which can open op new markets and new economies.

We do this by using strategic design tools, which make up the foundation of the programme, and which are based on strong design virtues such as iterative experimentation, the development of rapid prototypes and most importantly, focusing on the needs of the end-user. On top of this, REMODEL also involves a global panel of experts, CEOs and researchers within the field of open source, which allows the programme to pull on expertise from some of the world’s most visionary innovators.

Timeline for 2017-2018

REMODEL consists of a series of design-driven stages. In January, the programme was launched in a testing phase in which the Danish Design Centre collaborates with two Danish manufacturing companies, who will go through modules of the programme over the course of spring. These modules are developed along the way based on the needs and challenges that emerge as they move towards an open business model. 2-3 other companies will join the test phase later on.

The key learnings from these test runs will serve as the foundation of the official REMODEL programme, which we expect to launch in October, and which will have room for 10 to 15 companies. These companies get to choose among various work modules to tailor-make a process for themselves with a total duration of 3 to 4 months. The outcome will be a new business model that is ready to be implemented, and which can be market tested immediately.

© Agnete Schlichtkrull

Radical sharing of knowledge

Learnings, tools and methods from both the test runs and the main programme will be collected and shared as we go along through a REMODEL Open Source Business Model Toolkit, which will be freely available during and after the program.

On top of this we will be organising a REMODEL Open Source Business Modul Summit event in the spring of 2018, where participating companies, the international advisory board, prominent speakers and anyone else who are interested are invited to Denmark to share their experiences and think about the next steps for open sourced-based business models for manufacture companies. The ambition is that the participating companies will be among the first in the world to be able to launch brand new and remarkable business models, thus taking the lead on the global open source manufacturing trend.

REMODEL internationally

In March 2017, Danish Design Centre is yet again participating in the world’s largest technology event, SXSW Interactive, in Austin, Texas. We have been invited to host a panel debate as part of the official schedule under the title ‘Share or Die: Is Future Manufacturing Open Source?’. Programme Directors Christian Villum and Runa Sabroe, accompanied by two of the leading experts within the field, Benjamin Tinqc and Bram Geenen, will discuss the business models of the future. In April we will furthermore visit Canada, where Danish Design Centre at Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto will host another panel under the same title, but with a different group of experts.

Join us

Have these themes and initiatives made you curious? We would like to hear from you if your company might be interested in joining the test programme, or the official REMODEL programme this fall.

We would also be happy to hear from you if you or your organisation is interested in taking part in developing and executing work modules within the programme, and use this work in your own organisation as well. We are still planning both the amount of work modules and the themes they will cover.

Eager to discuss? Contact Programme Director Christian Villum at