[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation to invest in the next generation of American entrepreneurs and innovators by establishing a national network of fabrication laboratories, known as “fab labs.” Fab labs are small, community-based workshops that give members of the public – from students to small businesses – access to educational resources and high-tech equipment that can design, develop, and create new products. U.S. Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) has championed this legislation in the House of Representatives, where he introduced a companion measure in August.
“Establishing a national network of ‘fab labs’ will bolster innovation, job creation, and economic growth in communities across America, and it doesn’t cost the federal government a dime,” Durbin said. “Some of these fab labs are focused on meeting the needs of growing small businesses by giving local entrepreneurs a space to create prototypes and small-scale productions. Others, like the fab labs at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, are focused on developing a tech-savvy, high-skilled workforce.”
“America is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and innovative ideas to grow our economy,” Gillibrand said. “If we are going to keep our place atop the global economy, we must provide our students and entrepreneurs with the education and support they need for the jobs of the future. This legislation will help expand access to high-tech equipment and the training necessary to use it, providing hand-on experience to get more students into the STEM Pipeline and helping our innovators turn their ideas into new businesses and jobs.”
“As a manufacturer, businessman and a scientist I believe it’s critical that we provide the next generation with the skills to succeed in engineering and manufacturing and build the next generation of products, businesses and industries,” said Foster. “We have a great tradition of innovation in manufacturing in America. With a national network of Fab Labs we can empower and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. These labs help students build the STEM skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy.”
Fab labs are independently owned and operated facilities that provide communities with the equipment, tools, and resources necessary to engage in the hands-on fabrication of objects, including the manufacturing of items that are not suitable for commercial processes.
In addition to spurring innovation, fab labs are also used by science, technology, education, and math (STEM) educators to expose students to hands-on experiences that bridge design, science, and engineering disciplines through the use of advanced technology.
The National Fab Lab Network Act would grant a Federal charter to the National Fab Lab Network (NFLN). As a charter entity, NFLN would provide assistance and support to communities in the establishment of new fab labs and develop curriculum for STEM education and workforce training needs. Chartering the NFLN would help the organization raise funds, engage in public-private partnerships, and generate a high level of participation.
Foster’s companion bill in the House is co-sponsored by four additional members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation: U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL), U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL), U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).