Rhode Island's Maker-Related Assets
With continued globalization of the economy and the labor market shift from manufacturing to services, a comprehensive understanding of the current demographics of makers in Rhode Island would be beneficial in helping to support this sector’s role in economic growth. Using a broad definition of the term maker, the data helps paint a picture of Rhode Island’s maker communities and highlights the connections among industries. This project was designed to better understand the composition of Rhode Island’s maker communities in order to establish a comprehensive network among Rhode Island makers.
This data analysis is an important step in understanding what activities makers are involved in, their populations in the state, and how they relate to each other. Using three data sources, this preliminary analysis demonstrates their various relationships. Through the mapping of where makers working in the state cluster, possible resource and infrastructure proximities can be seen. This project is an initial step in better understanding where makers are concentrated in Rhode Island and how the mapping of their spatial distribution could help develop opportunities for innovation and economic growth across many industries.
Makers include established manufacturers as well as the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community, artists, artisans and tinkerers, producing individual, short-run or mass-produced products.
FIG. 1 DATA SET SOURCE DISTRIBUTION
FIG. 2 MAP OF MAKER ASSETS BY DATA SET SOURCE
FIG. 3 DISTRIBUTION OF MAKERS IN RHODE ISLAND
MAKER ACTIVITIES IN RHODE ISLAND
Given the large variance in size between the making activities of the food product manufacturing, facilitators, and basic material manufacturing groups raises questions about the benefits of more closely aligned sectors (See Figure 3). Should support be given to encourage more direct overlap, or could the existing differences in one sector help foster new directions in the other? For example, partnerships between facilitators from the academic group and processors from manufacturing could provide hands-on experience for college students and could highlight the value of the educational and economic benefits of living and working in Rhode Island. At the same time, manufacturers’ specific needs could spur makers and academia to develop new materials, processes, and technologies, leading to broader innovation in all three communities.
Building connections and strengthening the synergy between the different making communities could help encourage makers from different sectors to see the potentially transformative nature of a collaborative network, both in their own work and in the state.
FIG. 4 CATEGORY DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD PRODUCTION, FACILITATORS, AND BASIC MATERIAL MANUFACTURING GROUPS
FIG. 5 CATEGORY DISTRIBUTION OF PROCESSORS GROUP
FIG. 6 CATEGORY DISTRIBUTION OF SERVICE AND CARE PROVIDERS, DISTRIBUTORS, AND BUILDERS GROUPS
This research lays the foundation for further analysis to support a stronger network of makers in the state in order to build more cohesive and efficient maker communities.
One step to expanding upon this analysis would be to broaden the collected data sets to include farmers, landscapers, information technology, unaffiliated makers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies involved in making activities. Building upon the data collected from academic institutions to include surveys and interviews would also help to provide a better understanding of their maker-related activities. Continuing to refine the accuracy of the locations of makers in the state would allow for a more comprehensive look at the geographic distribution of the different activities in each sector. In addition, it would be valuable to analyze how other states have strengthened the relationships between makers, manufacturing, and innovation economies.
Further research could also be done to examine how Rhode Island’s maker communities relate nationally and globally by comparing national and international manufacturing and employment data with state maker data. For example, it could be beneficial to look at whether the national growth of opportunities for health care specialties, spurred by the demographic shift to an older population, is mirrored in Rhode Island maker activity. Comparing government projections and policies to the state maker data could also provide more information about Rhode Island’s connection to these trends. An important step in fully realizing the potential of this data would be to support the building of stronger partnerships to increase access to data and the sharing of data among maker industries.
Do barriers exist that prevent youth and adults from pursuing career pathways in growing manufacturing occupations, and, if so, how are other states overcoming these barriers?
Type of Research
- Explores the questions of Policy Leaders by providing a unique academic perspective to the research project
- Provides context for challenging state issues