POLIFACTORY the university’s new Makerspace”

Stefano Maffei, associate professor

I teach Product Service System Design in the Concept Design Studio and Industrial Design within the Product Development Studio. I’m head (together with Massimo Bianchini) of the Open and Distributed Production Cluster of the DESIS (DEsign for Social Innovation and Sustainability) laboratory network. I also coordinate a departmental working group which has developed the Politecnico di Milano Polifactory, which integrates a co-working space for the pre-incubation of talents with a research laboratory concerned with innovation in products and service and advanced production models and processes. My fields of research focus upon new production and distribution systems, advanced distributed microproduction, design-driven service innovation, design policies and policy design.

Stefano Maffei

Making and self-production, what are they and how are they related to each other?

“Making” is an emerging phenomenon which is steadily growing and now entering the public sphere. Yet in reality it is an indicator of a major change, of a transition in the way of designing, producing and distributing things. We are looking at a great transformation which is not only impacting the design field but which more generally regards processes of reappropriation of making things with approaches that range from those more connected to technology to approaches that are more connected to a design-driven sensibility.

There is a blossoming of new instances in this area, and this signals a line of research for the future for our university too, that is, the idea of investing in this field in order to imagine the new models of industrial production. This provides the framework for the changes in the way designers do business: indeed, we increasingly speak of designer=enterprise, that is, individuals who are neither businesses nor consultants in the traditional sense and who reappropriate all of the phases and processes of the production of products and services: this basically means new forms of self-production, in other words the creation of goods by means of a complex technological and organisational system which blends with the analogical and the handmade.

What is Polifactory?

Polifactory is the Politecnico di Milano’s new factory, which combines a co-working space, a machine shop and a flexible area that can host temporary training activities such as workshops and pre-incubation of projects. It is one of the advanced examples of experimentation with new models of advanced production. Bringing together the culture of design, of mechanical engineering and electronic and computer engineering to produce new visions and scenarios in product and service innovation.

What are today’s new spaces for making?

They are places in which basic research and technology combine with talent, creativity and human intelligence to create a new synergistic form of empowerment which is not the mere sum of the two fields but an augmented system which dialogues with intelligence and experimentation networks on a global level. An open place in the true sense of the word: connective and dialogical, at the same time tangible and capable of working on intangibles. Certainly a makerspace, oriented towards a human-centred approach with an eye to the issues of sustainability and social and environmental innovation.

What research activities are you developing on these themes?

We’re imagining the creation of a system of annual challenges to attract the best talents of the School of Design and Engineering to the Polifactory, the most interesting projects of the Alta Scuola Politecnica and of the PhD School (starting from Design). We want to get people who want to blend creativity, technology and an innovative approach to products and services to come through here. With no distinction between teachers and students. By creating a unique environment for doing and learning.


Via Durando 38/A - 20158 Milano
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Marita Canina,  Paola Checchi, Alberto Colorni, Annalinda De Rosa, Giulia Gerosa, Ilaria Mariani, Francesca Piredda, Lucia Rampino, Anne Schoonbrodt, Carlo Emilio Standoli, Lia Tagliavini

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