Recently, an undergraduate engineering student from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) in Bangladesh developed a mobile application that helps a vision impaired person navigate through streets while enabling family and friends to track his whereabouts. It is an impressive innovation to apply electronics, geographic information system, and programming knowledge to develop a real-life solution.

Like this student, the ability to innovate harnessing existing talent and infrastructure already exists in Bangladesh. Leading universities, like Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and other engineering, science and technology universities Bangladesh Agricultural University, and University of Dhaka already have analog fabrication labs for molding, casting, wood and metal workshops and robotics. The BUET even has a 3D printer,though it is an early version. What is missing is a transformation from analog to digital to improve precision, design, and speed of fabrication and prototyping, a market-oriented product development, and multi-disciplinary teaching, learning, research, and entrepreneurship to advance innovation.

The innovation ecosystem has been emerging since the HEQEP launched Window 4 in November 2014 and first Fab Lab Maker Meet was held on October 31, 2015 in Dhaka. It has created an open access lab focused on the maker community, advocating local innovation and providing a resource for inventors and entrepreneurs. The access to the facilities is open for all age and background through membership. The community of entrepreneurs organized a hardware competition called “Make-a-thon” and connected young entrepreneurs, industries, and professors to jointly make solutions for digital fabrication on October 31, 2015. BRAC has also organized a 36-hour hackathon event called “Bracathon” to provide a platform for the youth to make mobile applications for social innovation.

To foster innovation and university-industry partnership, the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Program (HEQEP), have been supporting Universities with an Academic Innovation Fund (AIF). To accelerate this effort, the project team organized a workshop on the digital fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) potential to introduce Fab Lab concept. It was held on December 2, 2015 at the University Grants Commission Auditorium.

BRAC University’s architecture department has already noticed the significant value of 3D printers and laser cutters for their architecture students. It helps expand their design capacity and release them from manual model making, which encouraged them to establish a mini-Fab Lab with AIF fun