July 18, 2019

Van Hollen, Murkowski, Foster Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Create National Fab Lab Network

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Representative Bill Foster (D-Ill.) introduced the National Fab Lab Network Act, legislation to expand Fab Labs across the country. These facilities are equipped with digitally-controlled tools that enable individuals to create and innovate new products. Tools range from laser cutters, to 3D printers, to automated knives — and training is also provided. To encourage the growth and expansion of new and current Fab Labs, this legislation would create a federally-chartered non-profit organization to serve as a central seed funding source for Fab Labs across the country – this network would foster public-private partnerships and provide aspiring innovators with increased access.

“A national network of Fab Labs will help keep our country on the forefront of innovation – connecting students and entrepreneurs with new technologies and providing them with the opportunity to turn ideas into goods. These facilities have the ability to spur small-scale, local businesses and manufacturing, ultimately helping to foster an economy that works for all Americans,” said Senator Van Hollen.  “I urge Congress to take up this bipartisan, common-sense legislation to keep America’s economy moving forward.”

“Fab Labs are driving state-of-the-art practices in the technology, manufacturing, and energy fields that will boost our economy and improve our standard of living. The examinations and experimentations that are taking place in these new educational spaces are challenging young Alaskans to pursue STEM education and developing a new generation of problem-solvers to tackle some of our most challenging issues,” said Senator Murkowski. “Having hands-on experience with high-tech design programs, electronic and programming tools, and industrial grade manufacturing machines is not only helping prepare students for quality, high-paying jobs, it’s also opening their eyes to their own potential. Fab Labs are a place for students to turn their creativity and ingenuity into solutions to practical problems-- a place where big, innovative ideas can become reality.”

“Fab Labs are an excellent way to give students of all ages an opportunity to explore STEM in an interactive way and to foster creativity and curiosity in new ideas,” Representative Foster said. “New ideas are vital to economic growth in our country. A National Fab Lab Network will not only provide people access to tools to develop new ideas, but it will also give entrepreneurs access to equipment and resources to develop new models and prototypes and grow their businesses.” 

Maryland is currently home to four Fab Labs: Fab Lab Baltimore in Baltimore City, the Community College of Baltimore County Fab Lab in Cantonsville, Bullis BITlab in Potomac, and St. James Fab Lab in Hagerstown. Alaska is home to CITC Fab Lab in Anchorage, and Illinois is also home to several Fab Labs. Overall, there are currently about 150 Fab Labs across the United States. 

The National Fab Lab Network Act would create a nonprofit charter similar to those started for groups like Little League Baseball. The goal of the Network would be to establish at least one Fab Lab for every 700,000 people, or roughly one lab in every Congressional district. A copy of the legislation can be found here.