Bhutan wraps up groundbreaking FAB23

Bhutan wraps up groundbreaking FAB23

Connecting Bhutan with the international world of technology and innovation and enhancing the nation’s potential for growth and development

With the theme “Designing a Resilient Future,” the Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck Super Fab Lab at Thimphu Tech Park was at the center of technology and innovation for the past one week as over 300 guests, comprising of global experts ranging from NASA engineers to World Bank Climate Financing leaders and other distinguished individuals from 55 countries gathered to explore the potential of digital fabrication in driving transformative change.

Speaking about the theme, Pema Wangchug, associate director of DRIVE division, Innotech department, DHI said, “It is a very powerful three word that captures the essence of the vision and it focuses on the importance of designing for fabrication, building resilience to withstand challenges, and creating a better future.”

The associate director said that having the super Fab lab in Bhutan is huge for Bhutan and that there are only four Fab labs in the entire world. “The main motives for having the Fab Lab in our country is to encourage Fab network all over Bhutan and to create a Fab movement throughout.”

He added that the Fab Lab is making significant strides in fostering a technology-driven Fab network across Bhutan, giving rise to a transformative Fab movement in the country’s unique challenges, such as geographical constraints, limited market access, and a comparatively small population, which have posed hurdles for traditional industries in achieving commercial success. However, the Fab Lab, together with technology, is poised to revolutionize possibilities in the nation.

“As a tool for the entire society, the Fab Lab actively encourages individuals to explore their ideas and assess their viability, thereby contributing to enhanced fabrication processes. This approach promises to bring about innovative solutions and further advancements in various industries, marking a significant step towards progress and development in the country,” he added.

An important component of the event was what many called “an inspiring display of innovation and problem-solving”, the Fab Bhutan Challenge, which witnessed five teams taking on various design issues affecting the nation. The challenges were aimed at promoting monsoon-resilient agriculture, providing clean drinking water, preventing human wildlife conflict, assisting traditional handicraft, and improving education access for special need students. 

Speaking about it Pema said, “‘Fab city challenge is the yearly challenge that happens and it serves as a powerful platform for demonstrating the potential technology-driven collaborations have.” It brought together teams comprising both locals and international experts who collaborated to address various community challenges and find effective solutions.

Meanwhile, international experts expressed their appreciations for the Fab Conference’s impacts, lauding it as a wonderful platform for knowledge exchange and cultural integration. The experts were excited about the potential of the Fab foundation’s focus on local communities and productions, which would usher in new ideas and cultural integration for Bhutan on a global stage.

Norella Coronell from the Fab Foundation shared that the event was an opportunity for a new world of discovery, celebrating the profound connection the participants felt with nature and each other. “The Fab Conference was deemed a stepping stone to connect Bhutan with the international world of technology and innovation, enhancing the nation’s potential for growth and development,” Norella shared.   

Olivia Deushle, Researcher from Oxford University shared that the Fab Conference is a wonderful platform to bring together people from all kinds of backgrounds of similar interest and it also a better opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas.

On the Fab foundation’s focus on local communities and local productions, she said; “These initiatives can really help in bringing new ideas and it is a great opportunity that would benefit integrating aspects such as culture of Bhutan.” She added that with the Conference, Bhutan can benefit immensely.

Those at the conference who had participated in the solutions-oriented workshops, panel discussions, keynote speeches, all had a common goal of empowering communities and finding sustainable solutions.

Marking momentous events, FAB 23 Bhutan is the country’s first-ever Fab Conference. The events explored how digital fabrication sought to harness digital fabrication to boost the country’s economy through a fusion of local and global knowledge. The theme acknowledges the changes and transformations that the country is currently undertaking and is aimed to foster connections and partnerships for a promising future for the country. 

One of the significant highlights was the unveiling of “Bhutanverse” by Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), a metaverse-based virtual space providing a co-created experience for global users to immerse themselves in Bhutan’s culture, history, and philosophy. With unique Bhutanese motifs, arts, and architecture, Bhutanverse aims to be a hub of cultural innovation and diversity, uniting international and Bhutanese Web3 artists, developers, and architects. The platform serves as a gateway for global audiences to engage with Bhutan’s rich heritage while allowing local digital communities to explore the potential of Web3 technologies.

A new addition to the event, the “Bhutan Fab Student Challenge,” proved to be a tremendous success. Launched this year, the challenge aimed to tackle the issues faced by students. The challenge collected valuable views and challenges, and the introduction of easier prototypes for student study enhanced learning experiences and contributed to the innovative solutions.

Out of the 120 proposals received from across the country, the Fab Lab selected the top 12 teams, propelling them towards further innovation and impactful projects.

The Conference also hosted engaging activities, including panel discussions on Bhutan’s journey into the metaverse, the carbon market landscape, and advancements in semiconductor industries in emerging markets. Thought-provoking conversations centered on innovations, sustainability, and community, made the event truly enriching and impactful.

The remarkable week-long, FAB 23 Bhutan, the 19th edition of the International Fab Lab Conference was organized by DHI in collaboration with Fab foundation of centers for Bits and Atoms and Fab city global initiates. 

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu