Silicon Valley’s TechShop to Open Ford-Affiliated Workshop for Detroit’s Next Generation of Inventors

7/30/10

Somewhere deep in Ford Motor’s institutional memory, it recalls a time before the strictly tiered, hierarchical business of making automobiles, when Detroit was a city of tinkerers, of makers, of individuals with dreams, talent, and a blowtorch.

Today, harkening back to that legacy, Ford is announcing it is getting together with TechShop—a Menlo Park, CA-based do-it-yourself, open-access workshop with more than 800 members in California and North Carolina—in an attempt to tap into the talent of individual Detroiters. The announcement is being made in conjunction with this weekend’s Maker Faire in Dearborn, MI, taking place at The Henry Ford.

A Ford spokesman tells me that a physical workspace in the Detroit area has been chosen for the TechShop collaboration, but the company is not yet ready to announce the location.

Ford and TechShop first hatched the idea to open up a communal work center for individual inventors when they got together at the 2010 Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA, Ford was showing off its “American Journey 2.0″ project with University of Michigan students. As part of that program, Ford, Microsoft, and Intel gave students an opportunity to develop their ideas for future in-car connectivity using social networks, GPS, and real-time vehicle data.

A partnership with TechShop seemed like a logical next step.

“The talent pool and level of skill and knowledge in and around Detroit is incredible,” Bill Coughlin, president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies, says in a prepared statement. “TechShop can provide a physical hub for this inventive community, allowing us to connect with them in a way never done before.”

Coughlin says he hopes TechShop will inspire Detroit-area engineers, designers, and scientists to innovate on their own time by giving them an “affordable place to go that has the necessary equipment and resources to make their inventive ideas a reality.”

The announcement is being made today in conjunction with the Maker Faire taking place at a museum that includes a display of Henry Ford’s garage, where in 1896, he built a goofy-looking thing called a “quadricycle.” It changed the world.

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