D-Lab Case Study

Company: D-Lab – www.d-lab.co.uk
Key Industry: Social Enterprise
Key Sector: Design & Innovation


In the heart of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, D-Lab (which stands for Design Laboratory) provides a co-working creative studio space, community digital workshops and education, mentoring and support programmes for small businesses and individuals.

Collectively this is often referred to as a ‘makerspace’ which offers the facilities for making, learning, exploring, sharing and even entrepreneurship, with the aid of such items as 3D printers, laser cutters, virtual reality, augmented reality, woodworking and more.

D-Lab is the result of a group of volunteers, local architects, and craftspeople who got together to transform a disused council building into a hub for innovation.

The Challenge

As a community interest company, all of D-Lab’s profits go into maintaining the facilities at Clarence Road and, as a result, they rely heavily on donations, membership, and volunteers. The challenge with any social enterprise model is to ensure that it will be self-sustainable in the long term and, historically, community-led enterprises of this nature, have not been successful financially.

The Solution

Founders David and Linda Kirkland and Kenny Fraser approached the opportunity with this very much in mind. The building has been divided primarily into two: 12 paid desks rented to small local creative businesses such as architects, designers and coders creates a regular income for the centre and the individuals, as part of their contract, are asked to offer mentoring and coaching to those people using the centre; while the remainder offers the creative space with a studio/meeting room and various sized workshops. The children’s Lego club is charged at £8 per session whilst the prices for the adult and professional courses vary.

Clearly the income is fundamental to ensuring the financial stability of the centre, but the expertise provided by the business owners provides career and start-up advice to other small businesses enabling D-Lab to act as a catalyst to help stimulate the local economy in innovation and design.

Its philosophy of work, make, learn is unique in this regard.

The Results

In April 2018, D-Lab won the 1st Berkhamsted & District Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award and, in the summer, were awarded a business grant through the Dacorum’s Den Scheme to purchase top of the range 3-D printers.

Linda Kirkland, Press & Operations Director, commented: “In the past 6 months we have had seven work experience students with us. Over the past year the workshops and meet-up sessions have seen nearly 280 people attend a variety of courses for both adults and children from Lego and Architecture clubs to Games Programming, Robotics, Creative Coding Club, Python club, 2D Games, Arduino workshops, Platinum Printing and Photography courses. We are currently reviewing our workshops going forward and a new website will be launched in the next couple of weeks.”

As a result of its success locally, D-Lab have been approached by Get Living London to set up a similar model in East Village Stratford in London and were thrilled to be 1 of only 26 projects that got awarded a pledge from the Mayor of London for their crowdfunding campaign for more equipment for the East London venture. Check out the Mayor of London’s Crowd Fund page and consider partnering with D-Lab to make it the best resourced open access design and innovation space in London.

If you would be interested in volunteering your time as a workshop leader, mentor, technician, or advisor, please contact Ed Fisher, Programme Director, on 07960 043293 or by email to: ed.fish@d-lab.co.uk.

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