These days, Shenzhen is well known globally as a place where millions and millions of things are made — iPhones, tablets, Samsung Galaxy S4s, and much more.
But the maker movement has been growing in Shenzhen, and this week the city hosted the first large-scale Maker Faire event in China.
The fair was organized by Eric Pan and his Seeed Studio team and hosted 300 makers divided into 120 exhibits.
Shenzhen, with its multiple factories and maker hubs, has been working to promote itself as a center of crafts, technology, do-it-yourself, and inventions. This past December, Seeed Studio created and released a Shenzhen Map for Makers in an effort to encourage visitors and local residents interested in the maker movement to discover the many resources available right in the city.
“This event has so many meanings for us,” Pan told Make magazine in an interview. “It is important for growing the ecosystem.”
Seeed Studio, which is itself based in Shenzhen, is a sort of supermarket for all things hardware, from components to kits and even projects from the community. The company says that its proximity to Shenzhen’s manufacturers and suppliers enables it to source a wide range of items and make them available to all hardware enthusiasts around the world.
Interestingly, Foxconn, PCH International, and Huaqiang sponsored the fair. These companies operate large factories in Shenzhen and have traditionally remained out of the maker movement.
Yet Foxconn executive chairman Vincent Wang was a guest speaker at the fair and shared that his company has recently opened up to working with makers and even opened a special business unit five months ago to focus on that group as well as a fabrication facility in Beijing that can prototype new products.
Cofounder of HackedMatter and Internet startup consultant David Li believes that these manufacturing giants are seeing their old selves in Eric Pan — an entrepreneur who is building a manufacturing force from the ground up. Their increasingly larger size and decreasing nimbleness is also pushing them towards figures like Pan in the hopes of remaining connected to the quickly changing ideas and innovations in the industry.
While a shift towards embracing the maker movement in Shenzhen could seem improbable or slow, only 30 years ago, Shenzhen was a fishing village that has since seen a meteoric rise in manufacturing, a move to the outer limits of the city by these same manufacturers, and a revival of shops, museums, and residences in the city.
So embracing this creeping movement quickly is very much possible.