Creative Point is one of the projects of the National Business Centre, which supports the business environment in Slovakia. We visited the beautiful creative workshops in the EcoPoint building in Košice towards the end of this project, where the manager Miroslava Rybárová and technicians Adriana Sabová and Róbert Egreši summed up their three-year efforts. We asked about the technical support, workshops, training and other opportunities presented by one of the first Fab Labs in Košice.
What is Creative Point and what is the main idea of this project?
Miroslava: Creative Point is first and foremost a technology workshop. Such workshops have gradually opened in Bratislava, Žilina and Košice. It is a space offering its clients different types of services, which are mainly focused on technology. There are many important aspects of the project, from linking technology with crafts and handmade production, to software workshops and training on photography and video production. The aim is to foster entrepreneurship and to broaden the horizons, knowledge and skills of budding entrepreneurs with the opportunity to prototype, fulfil their visions and bring their ideas to life.
Adriana: When we started as technical assistants, Creative Point was presented to us as an opportunity to show budding entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs what technology was available to work with. The subsidy of 25 hours for individual workshops is quite low for an entrepreneur to be able to start mass production immediately, so it is more of a demonstration of the technologies and programmes that are available in a particular sphere.
Róbert: The workshop has been physically operating since October 2020, when we were still in a smaller room on Krivá Street. We have been in the EcoPoint space since December 2022. Therefore, the workshops have been fully operational since December 2022.
Who can get involved?
Miroslava: The project is mainly focused on the support and development of start-up entrepreneurs. It is specifically aimed at small and medium-sized businesses in their first three years. However, our services can also be used by individuals over 16 years of age. Interestingly, our clients cannot live or operate in the Bratislava region. The Bratislava region has its own operation within the National Business Centre project. They have their own team and the project in the Bratislava region is a bit different. For example, it offers more services.
I noticed that you provide various forms of workshops and lectures, so let’s introduce them one by one. Let’s start with Roadshow.
Róbert: Roadshows are events where we travel to present one or more of our technologies outside of Creative Point. Most often we give presentations at schools but we have also presented at trade fairs like Profesia days and Pro Educo. The aim of the Roadshow is to popularise these technologies and to show the possibilities of using technologies that are available to us in the context of creation and production.
Do you also conduct individual training sessions?
Róbert: Basically yes. One of the services we offer is called Create at the Creative Point Workshop. This service is for non-entrepreneurs. We also offer a more business-focused service called Entrepreneurs Create at the Creative Point Workshop. This is a one-on-one consultation with a maximum duration of 25 hours. In these sessions, clients can either use our technology or consult with us on a project they want to bring to a successful end. Projects are related to 2D graphics for a cutting plotter, 3D modelling and preparation for 3D printing, 3D scanning and virtual reality.
What about community building?
Miroslava: Another of our workshops has the project name Tech Tuesdays, although they are held not only on Tuesdays but also on Thursdays (laughs). Žilina has always had them only on Wednesdays. Tech Tuesdays are a form of group counselling. It is always a specific workshop that focuses on a given technology, project or training that members of the National Business Centre can sign up for. We used to organise online sessions as well, but that became irrelevant after Covid. During the pandemic, these “Tuesdays” took the form of software training mostly in Adobe programs, but we also ran workshops that focused on creating a simple website, creating a logo, photography or video. Since we’ve been here at EcoPoint, we’ve been training in person. For example, it’s about connecting 3D printing and 3D modelling, or even incorporating electrical engineering skills. We also have overlaps into crafts and handmade products, such as making squeaky t-shirts, barefoot sandals or lanterns.
Adriana: Our training works in two ways. We have internal lecturers, that’s actually us technicians, who work for Creative Point, and we also bring in external trainers. For example, we welcomed Botanic Candle from Bratislava who showed the workshop participants how to create an imaginative candle base using flowers, epoxide and a petri dish. We also had a series of successful photo and video workshops with Peter Turoň. In the sessions we give space not only to start-ups but also to established businesses to showcase their work and conduct the training.
Miroslava: Sometimes we have a specific “add-on” as part of the Technical Tuesdays. If workshops require a more extensive preparation, we can add an hour of theoretical introduction on top of it. For example, an introduction to the program and its tools. We don’t do this for every workshop but we do it for about 50% of the workshops. We run two workshops a month.
Can people see Creative Point without coming to the workshop?
Róbert: The last training we offer is the Excursion. This practically means that a group of people announce in advance that they are interested in coming here and we will briefly introduce our activities and our technologies. The Roadshow and the Excursion are convenient as people don’t have to sign up through our system. These formats have been used mainly in universities and high schools. For example, we conducted an excursion with a workshop for a high school that focused on 3D printing. With the Vocational School of Information Technology, we conducted a field trip based on virtual reality. In addition, we did a presentation for the Faculty of Arts of the Technical University (FUTU) focused on 3D printing – students of this school are encouraged to create their models this way, so it was a perfect fit.
What technical support does Creative Point have?
Adriana: In the VR room we have two Meta Guest 2 headsets, then two Pico 4 headsets, and an HTC vive pro which also comes with Catwalk motion platform. Augmented reality is the focus of Leap One’s holographic glasses, where you have the ability to interact with objects in your real environment. We also use some of the simpler types of VR goggles created by Oculus in collaboration with Samsung, where a mobile phone is inserted into a plastic frame. The software that came with the headset is aimed at modelling and drawing in 3D space. Also, for the needs of the project, a custom camera and recording application was developed, in which you can focus the camera on an object and you will immediately get information about it – contacts, links and pages, very similar to a QR code.
The Bratislava and Žilina regions have held events dedicated to VR. We chose to present the VR room in the form of an excursion for the Vocational School of Information Technology. In Bratislava, a team of external lecturers presented in their VR room the development of an application for students of medicine, who can safely learn how to conduct surgery in virtual reality. A colleague from Creative Point in Žilina presented an interior and exterior modelled in Blender with the possibility of a virtual walk around the premises. For example, an interesting use of VR was launched by the London Underground, which developed an app for drivers to learn how to behave on the tube during a fire…
Róbert: The second room is a workshop with a cutting plotter. We have a vinyl film cutter from Graphtec, and an iron-on thermo-press for textiles. In the 3D printer room, there’s a Prusa Mk2 and a Sigma R19 BCN3D printer, which has two print heads. They are FDM printers with an identical printing process. We also have a Matter and Form 3D scanner. 3D printing has a very wide range of uses, from aircraft models to gift items. In the new space we welcomed a new technician, Patrik Mlynár, who has built himself a 3D printer whose plastic parts have all been 3D printed. The last room is dedicated to post-production where we process 3D models. Here we deal with the grinding, painting, cutting, electrotechnical adjustments and polishing of products.
Adriana: We set up this room on our own. People can find all the previously named technologies on our website but this room is special and we created it to finish products. Here we teach clients basics in electrical engineering – for example, as part of our lamp making workshops we teach people how to solder.
What kind of entrepreneurs or other clients have been involved in this project?
Róbert: The most common clients are individuals and students. Then there are quite a few university students who use 3D printing in their presentations. As far as collaborations with companies are concerned, they have been a bit less frequent.
Adriana: We have also worked with start-up entrepreneurs. The first one was creating weather stations, so we printed prototype packaging for them. The second one came to the Tech Tuesdays and we helped them to create a lamp. One budding entrepreneur came to us saying that they had a 3D printer and they would like to learn how to work with it better, to prepare models for printing and to print decorative items.
Róbert: We also collaborated with a company that creates embroidery. We helped them to simplify the preparation of images for the actual sewing and embroidery in Adobe Illustrator.
Miroslava: Logically, companies with activities related to the creative industry and specific technologies seek out individual consultations. However, our events might also attract either legal or natural persons, whose activity may not be closely related to our focus. For example, they can learn how to work more efficiently in Photoshop to support their business, but their business may not be related to the creative industry at all. For example, we worked with Veronika Sekerová who wanted to start her creative civic organisation Les i more focused on design, fashion and recycling. Ms Sekerová is based in Western Slovakia but contacted us through online workshops during Covid. It is clear that she is using the knowledge we have passed on to her in her own work. We are happy to see the progress of people who have attended our events. Even if they do not open their own business straight away they are using the knowledge from our training in their jobs and personal projects.
What is the future of Creative Point in Košice?
Miroslava: The NBC in the Regions project ends on 31st October 2023 but we offer our services only until the end of August. Throughout September and October we will be archiving and evaluating the project. You really caught us in the final phase.
How do you evaluate these three years, can you summarize them? Does the Creative Point in Košice have any specifics, let’s say compared to Žilina and Bratislava?
Miroslava: I think that Košice as a city defines the potential of this project. Košice has moved forward after 2009 and then again after 2013 when we started to implement the European Capital of Culture project that has been very successful. The creative industry in Košice has the greatest potential after Bratislava, which is also influenced by the phenomenon of the second largest city in the country. We have fantastic projects here, an IT valley and we have universities and many great people. I am convinced that if someone wanted to create, for example, film studios here, they would have no problem as the foundations are very good – there are schools, programmers, entrepreneurs, artists, gastronomy, hotels, simply everything. It’s a huge shame that Creative Point won’t be around anymore. There’s been talk of Tabačka, Kasárne, or TUKE, but I don’t know when or if there are plans to open something similar to the public.
Róbert: So far this project has been the only one that came close to the idea of a Fab Lab as we know it from Bratislava, Brno or other European cities. Personally, I am very grateful that I could be part of something like this. The fact that people met at thematically varied events, improved in the use of new technologies and graphic software, exchanged contacts and took away their self-made projects – all of this I see as a success.
Adriana: The potential of Creative Point as such is clearly visible in Bratislava, where it has been operating for 5 years. They have managed to create and connect communities, organise successful events and truly bring people together. I think we could definitely progress in Košice too if we had the time and space to continue, make ourselves more known and involve more people. We have tried our best and we have partly been successful.
Miroslava: We should not forget that this workshop and the space to move forward was created thanks to the NBC in the Regions project, which is facilitated by the Slovak Business Agency. It is great that such a project was created and it received funding. This project as a whole has been one of the most successful projects ever. We have exhausted the budget and we have achieved what we set out to achieve. The feedback has been very good, whether concerning the NBC or Creative Point. It was beneficial for our clients.
Adriana: To be more specific, we had some great collaborations, for example with the Puppet Theatre, where we participated in their Virvar festival. We also had an impactful collaboration with the ACESS 3DP project and we were approached by the Digital League project and came to lecture at their events. In the last few years, we’ve managed to accomplish some very good things.
Invisible Mag is supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council. The Slovak Arts Council is the main partner of the project.