“Sustainable innovation is something that we are very passionate about,” enthuses Suchit Jain, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development of SOLIDWORKS & 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS at Dassault Systèmes.
“Our goal is to provide the best tools to help our users innovate—the pencil for writing the essay, if you will. But innovation is not just about technology; it's about implementation strategies, experiences, and, above all, people. If you leave people behind, technology adoption does not happen. SOLIDWORKS has always been rooted in ease of use, working to take technology—initially CAD, which was just for the chosen few—and mainstream it, bring it to everybody. That's ingrained in us. Technology is nothing without the people using it. And, for us, that is key.”
It’s no wonder, then, that SOLIDWORKS has been such a strong partner of the Fab Foundation over the years, aiding in our mission to provide the means that allow anyone, anywhere to make (almost) anything.
“It's really been a pleasure working with Fab Foundation,” says Abhishek Bali, Director of 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS for Startups, a program by Dassault Systèmes that provides hardware startups affordable access to SOLIDWORKS. In an extended role, Bali is also involved with what's now called the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Makers program. “It's very difficult to take up the challenge of democratizing something like Making. You know, it's not art, it's not science; it's a combination, and I think Fab Foundation has done a good job of this. It's a tough project, but we have always been happy to help.”
With just a few simple phrases, Bali captures the essence of this work, which exists in a space that is often difficult to define and means something different to each person involved in the broad movement. It may not be too much to say that it is this community itself that gives the movement its meaning.
“Knowing whose journey we can accelerate is something that’s very close to our heart as a company,” continues Bali. “We help builders—providing free software and training—and strive to create community because we know that design is no longer an individual project or process; it's social. The whole idea of our cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is to connect designers and engineers so that they can come up with better products collaboratively.”
It is this same community-based ethos that has paved the way for a veritable explosion of Fab Labs around the globe over the past decade. Supported directly by the team at SOLIDWORKS, Fab Labs have recently opened in such far-flung locations as Rwanda, Chile, Nepal, and Haiti, where the first Fab Lab 2.0—a Fab Lab made in a Fab Lab—is currently in progress.
“It's all about relationships and communities,” says Jain. “Our relationship with the Fab Foundation really grew with the start of the Rwanda project. Together, we developed a relationship with the Rwandan education system. We worked with a lot of schools and turned a small Fab Lab initiative into a very good ecosystem of startups that has changed the country for the better.”
SOLIDWORKS has also been instrumental in helping Fab Foundation shepherd the network’s spread into Bhutan, resulting in the 19th edition of our annual FABx Event being hosted in Thimphu this summer. As Jain explains, “The goal is to bring technology to the most remote places in the world and really nurture its growth within the community. Well, what better place than Bhutan to continue this effort?” He took that point a bit further in a recent presentation to students from emlyon business school: “My central message to everyone is, dream big and create bold. Our work is about enabling others to create.”
Jain will be joining us as a Youth & Education Symposium speaker at FAB23, where he hopes to inspire the Bhutanese community to continue the important work that has already begun in Fab Labs distributed throughout the Kingdom. “Of course, I want everyone to be aware of the exponential potential of technology, but above all, I want to make sure that no one feels alone in this exploration. Everybody around you—this global network of people—will help you. It's not just about individual excellence; it's about community.”
In a clear illustration of his belief in the genuine talent and strength of this creative community, Jain, beaming, points to a series of colorful images decorating the walls of his office. One references a 3DEXPERIENCE for Good Hackathon with the goal of providing one million prosthetic hands to those in need. Another celebrates the historic contributions of women in STEM, featuring SOLIDWORKS artist in residence Kate Reed. The third captures the spirit of a design challenge, aimed at helping the nonprofit Magic Wheelchair provide children in wheelchairs with epic costumes and fun experiences. And the final piece, appropriately, depicts the SOLIDWORKS community spread across various parts of the world. “Those little dots are all locations where our user communities are,” Jain explains with an almost paternal pride. “And, by the way, these pieces were all created by one of our customers.”
With this network of makers, designers, innovators, artists, and engineers continuing to grow and expand across the globe, one might reasonably ask how the collective talent might best be harnessed. And, perhaps more importantly, how can each member of the community—especially those in the most remote locations—be granted necessary access to the technology that’s so integral to the movement?
Jain has a ready response to that question, too, and it’s ingenious: “The mind comes, naturally, to educational institutes—our schools across the world. People have started to talk about exposing students in the classroom to what goes on in a makerspace. But taking students to Fab Labs presents its own set of challenges. So, we thought, let's bring a makerspace to the classroom. And how do we do that? By putting a Fab Lab in a box.”
More to come on that very soon…stay tuned!
Keep an eye on our Schedule page to find out when Suchit Jain will be presenting at FAB23 Bhutan!