Setting up a Lab

Hey all,

Here some notes of the discussion @ FixMe Hackerspace (thanks to them for the comfy environment).

How to setup a lab [with few resources!]


  • People, space, community is important!

  • Don’t start a space for the sake of a space

  • You can’t predict anything in the community

  • Motivations - don’t try to be far away from your own motivations

  • Consistency of meeting - number the meetings (in a string - e.g. “Biohacking meeting 1”)

  • Decision making - do decisions that are good for the community. “Don’t sell yourself out”. “Do-ocracy”. Give time for things to settle down naturally, especially to see how much time people spend on it

  • Transparency for budget and important decisions for the community

  • Have lead members that can carry some initial work.


  • Access for members at any time - biology requires time.

  • Sorting out where to rent and how not to pay big rent (e.g. buildings that are temporary before changing use)

  • How to do presentation of group to industry/local state - “democratization” of bioart, etc.

  • Funding - don’t try to be dependant on it for your space. Instead, better have a group that can maintain the rent in advance (keep the costs low).

  • Project - something to work on and develop with consequence.

  • Focus and identity - don’t waste time on definitions


  • from industry or from academia

  • investing in equipment means better community?

Funding partners

  • have confidence for speaking about money

  • pricing and options -> do pricing for documentation, workshops [kids is key], tools, etc.

Thank you Rosen for documenting and thank you all who shared the experiences they made while setting up a lab, also on behalf of the [kat]alab team members that couldn’t join the (un)conference. This is so valuable to us and we’re so happy to have the support of an awesome community!

To everybody who didn’t join our discussion: we’re very happy if you share your thoughts as well. We thought about starting a thread in the hackteria forum soon to ask for more input, I think we can start collecting more information here already.

Here’s the whiteboard, but its nothing new compared to Rosen’s summary.

We will keep you posted about proceedings in Vienna. You can also register to our newsletter at or follow us on facebook.

Thanks again and see you all soon! Jakob

  1. What is the most important? Your own motivations/interests as the promotor of the lab? Or the motivations of the community? I guess, the second is right…

Can you be carefull about the context? because this one is true only in the western context…

hello - @gaudi and I wrote this in 2014, and I finally put it on a share-able link, rather than an obscure pdf. Wanted to share this with you

Thank you Sachiko for the link to the document (and for writing it in the first place :wink: )

We wrote an a little bit more extensive summary of the discussion, also with thoughts from other workshops and discussions, sometimes mixed with our own ideas. We are very happy if you comment and extend with your thoughts, since we see everything just from our newcomers perspective. I will just paste the text here for now, maybe we can make a google doc out of it later. Once more, thank you for the awesome conference!! Jakob

Our summary is focused on the question:

What can we learn from Biofabbing and its participants in order to open the most awesome lab?

The content of this summary is mostly inspired and created by the participants mixed with some of our thoughts. Please feel free to add your experiences and knowledge!

  1. Inspiration
  2. Structure
  3. Community
  4. Public Awareness
  5. Projects
  6. Workshop
  7. Events
  8. Money
  9. Location
  10. Equipment & Basic Materials
  11. Tipps



Everyone who wants to get inspired and wants to learn is welcome, even if we don’t share all values. The projects still have to fit our values.

Meet up with ppl sharing different values (opposite) in order to learn.

REFLECT - „Remember when science was fun“

Free science from institutions
- back to its essence
- cheaper results (see 4 thieves of vinegar collective)

Why are schools/ universities/ institutions „bad“?
- what can we keep?
- what should be changed and why?

Is DIY BIO the new form of working in the science field? If yes, what are the consequences for
- community
- education
- ethics

!!!Set clear goals!!!


Decision making
- internal meeting once a week
- feedback from citizens
- set a set of rules
- if set of rules does not work - be situational elastic
- consensus
- Do you need/ want a driving force or will ideas emerge from the community?
- transparency (intern - not to much to the outside; meaning that private things stay internal)

Write down the working hours - most hrs -> more impact on decision making

Invite members of one of our communities to stay at the lab to consult us



What is the intent?

What do they want? What are their Goals? What are their wishes?

What makes science sexy? - How do I get ppl interested in science?
- Shock! (use current trend topic) - create interest (robots are „more interesting“ than plants)
- Explain sth easy to understand - create awareness
- Show sth easy to try and repeatable (at home) - create knowledge

Specials citizens day (even if they can come every day)

Community sitze min: 4-5 ppl
- how can we get members? (Facebook, Meet Up,…)


Local subjective needs we feel to fill



Media awareness: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
- Who is the best journalist to write on the project?
- Is writing an article on your own an option?
- On which platform do you want to occur?
- Who is covering similar projects?
- Tell a story (analogy) that describes your passion!
- Put it in the context with a current trend topic!
- Tell specific ppl the story they want to hear


What are we standing for

Put documents somewhere on your website - maybe also the meeting agendas and the protocols

Press access only to team members that can handle that type of contact

Write your own articles


Prototype Projects: bring together interdisciplinary experts for a (eg) 3 day hackathon
- topic
- courses
- lab
- product

Call for project: ppl propose projects and search for team members (see Hackuarium)

Cool Projects - Flagship Project - even easy, do not aim to high!
Start with something that interests you and try to make a workshop out of it (Biomimicry)

Create a workshop out of the projects
- share the acquired knowledge
- material for PR


Sustainable development Workshops
- Biomimicry
- Find an idea
- Realize it!

Document the workshops (Photos, text , video, photobook,…)
- publicity for sponsoring partners
- publicity for lab
- open science concept (how we did it and how it worked out; what worked, what did not work, what did we learn …)

Powerpoint presentation/ article about the WS on our website

LOCATION - think out of the box

Bus through Europe (around the World)
(workshop) trip to Sponsoring partner


  • sponsoring partner
    family Workshop


50% to the teacher, 50% to the lab
- set aside money for new materials


Once a week (regular citizens meetings)

Number your events - Regular and consistent

##8. MONEY

Try to be independent from funding

Keep 3 month / 2 years of rent in the bank or distribute the risk among the board (min around 5 ppl)

Show the funders the space and make the project visual and easy to understand

Talk about money and say what you want - you never know who you are talking with!

Prices: eg Workshops:
Workshop with documentation & material … __€
Workshop with documentation …__€
Workshop without documentation …__€
- make it variable so that the costumer can chose the best option for him/herself

Transparency about funding and also the contract - stay independent
- social media


  • Search for something in your surrounding to „dock on“ (if you have a space in mind or even more concrete)






##11. TIPPS

This is your child - Try things you like (personal motivation)
- otherwise you will have an inflation of ideas (if you make your program (only) dependent on the wishes of the community, state…
- Whats the exact concept?

You are not what you claim, you are what you do - the definition comes by itself

Try to be independent from funding

Stay stubborn

Not to many concepts at first

Make sure that the space is accessible

Make sure that you are as mobile as possible (eg if you suddenly have to move)

Funders did not understand the concept/idea because they could not see it

Use meetup to get new members (team) or to get interested citizens to work with you

„Patterns for Hackerspaces“ - Mitch Altman


Create WIN - WIN or LOSE - LOSE situations

Dear @jakob,
Thanks for sharing!
While cleaning up the Hackuarium wiki yesterday, I found this:
It was an early exercise we did with our (then small) community.
Maybe it can help as well. We did not go beyond the second or third meeting, but it was very powerful and looking at it today, I think we did some things right, and other we did wrong because we were distracted from the initial vision.
So my advice: document all of it (like you did in the post above) in a place that will survive the years (a wiki?) so you can share a link with others :wink: