I had the chance to visit the launch of Bi-Link’s The Hardware Store – a workspace where local entrepreneurs and engineers can collaborate with peers to put ideas into action. Bi-Link is a family owned company that has not strayed from its original goal of having employees come to work each day and say, “What if?!” They want to give engineers and entrepreneurs access to tools in order to lower barriers of entry to prototyping in order to allow them to keep asking ”What if?!”
This is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs who do not need a grand scale operation but are developing a prototype. Many times we think of techies and scientists in their private labs not interacting with others, but The Hardware Store turns this notion on its head. They have included meeting space and a common area to foster a feeling of community. There are 3D printers and ink injector molding machines, which enable clients to create prototypes in hours rather than days or weeks. The 3D printer opens up the prototyping process and enables rapid development of products. By making these products available, The Hardware Store is bringing access to various tools to those that might not have the capital to make such an investment on their own
Bi-Link has set out to create a “third space” in the region. It is not work, not home – but rather somewhere in between. We are lacking these third spaces here in the Research Triangle Park, and are working on developing more. That’s why we are so excited Bi-Link chose the Triangle area for their first Hardware Store away from their corporate office in Bloomington, IL. They recognize the plethora of R&D companies we have here and how they need a third space to be more than a coffee shop – they need tools and gadgets and a place specifically designed for the engineering mind.
The space is designed with a common area and meeting space, as they are trying to leverage the idea behind Thomas Edison’s “midnight lunch.” The midnight lunch was a time from after work until midnight where engineers and tinkerers came to share their current projects and get input from fellow engineers. It was also a time to eat! Thomas Edison hosted these sessions and would order in food. These individuals became friends and formed a community around collaboration and innovation.
As a non-technical person I was excited, so that must be saying something. It’s great to see the new discoveries that this space will yield by bringing entrepreneurs and engineers together to collaborate and innovate. These are two things we value in the Research Triangle Park, so I am glad to see this endeavor happening so close to the Park. It means that we are not alone in our thinking that designers, engineers and entrepreneurs need to tinker together.