Transforming The Makers with the NW community

The North-West can now benefit from a modern centre of ‘making’ that hosts hands-on learning experiences, progresses business ideas, and advances the region’s key industries through specialised technology, training and research.

Burnie’s Makers’ Workshop has transformed into a technology and innovation hub after the University of Tasmania embraced the opportunity to reimagine and reopen the space.

Launched today (Thursday, 1 February), the iconic building’s new chapter as The Makers brings together four areas: the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), the College of Business and Economics’ Tech Solutions Hub, a Business Incubator and a public demonstration space.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said the University funded the $4+ million Makers refurbishment as part of a continued investment in the North-West community and its future.

“The Makers is a place of education with community at its heart where people can discover and learn in facilities that enhance our teaching and research capability in the region,” Professor Black said.

“The community can experience technology demonstrations and events, progress business ideas, access specialised industry training and see our researchers working to solve industry challenges.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Cradle Coast) Associate Professor Sonya Stanford said The Makers had been organised around what community and industry wanted.

“Thank you to everyone who has helped shape this exciting future. We understand how important The Makers is to so many and are grateful for the care people have shown in co-designing a new model that invites everyone to share their aspirations for the region, be part of learning and research, and be inspired to pursue their hopes and dreams,” Associate Professor Stanford said.

“Inside The Makers, people will be working collectively to develop innovative solutions to complex problems our communities and major industries are experiencing. One of the first problems we will tackle is food security and food justice.”

Projects for The Makers are already under way. TIA researchers have purpose-built labs for work on projects such as developing new technology to suppress a rot disease in wine grapes, controlling weeds such as oxalis in commercial crops, increasing the efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser use and reducing methane emissions from dairy cows.

The Tech Solutions Hub will work with industry to solve real-world problems. Recently the Hub worked with students to help a local business develop a pip separation system for passion fruit. The system, now implemented, has helped to increase productivity and efficiency. This year school students in the Lids4kids program will learn how to recycle plastic lids for 3D printing. Demonstrations and support to set up 3D printing for teachers will assist with STEM education in local schools. Courses and training will be offered in agribusiness, robotics and Computer Aided Design (CAD).

Aspiring entrepreneurs will have access to an accelerator program run through the Business Incubator, with advice and mentoring offered at monthly community networking events. The first of these, on 15 February, will feature agricultural entrepreneurs Guy Robertson (Mount Gnomon Farm in Penguin), Sarah Packwood-Hollings (Alchymia Distillery at Table Cape) and Maverick Weller (Tasmanian Cannabis in Burnie).

The Makers’ central demonstration space will initially showcase drones, AI and Agritech, with a festival of ‘making’ later this year offering hands-on STEM experiences linked to the region’s workforce.

The reinvigorated interior was designed by architects Liminal Studio with local firm Fairbrother undertaking the refurbishment. 143 people worked on the project from across 21 different companies with all but two based in the North-West.

The Makers building continues to be owned by Burnie City Council and is leased by the University.

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