I.O Me Lab. Lamu, Kenya

I.O Me Lab. Lamu, Kenya


I.O.Me Lab is a community based innovation space with an array of Digital Fabrication tools to facilitate prototyping and small scale manufacturing of innovative ideas/products. It is located in Lamu, in the Eastern coast of Kenya, and open to everyone who wants to turn ideas into actual products through shared knowledge and peer learning. This collaborative space allows and inspires innovators, technology enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to create and quickly test new concepts, products and businesses by giving them more options through access to advanced technology, materials and production methodologies.


Lamu county is facing several issues related to both social and economic fields. Regarding economic hardships the county faces an unemployment rate of 69% and a poverty rate close to 30%. Living mostly thanks to the fishing industry and the agricultural sector, Lamu county has also developed a rich islamic-swahili culture registered by UNESCO and therefore attracting tourists from both Africa and Europe. However Somalia’s proximity as well as regular Al-Shabaab’s incursions threaten Lamu’s development model and its youth often fall into drug-trafficking or extremism. To struggle with that trend, the Kenyan Red Cross has developed a two-step response using a facility in Hindi in Lamu County. On the one-hand, KRC has created  a 100 persons-capacity rehabilitation center to cure youngsters facing drug-abuse. On the other hand, the Lab is supposed to complete the insertion program by allowing mostly former addicts, but more generally anyone who would like to take part in the program, to develop useful skills. 

Technical details & Operations

The Lab is a creative space that mixes both production and prototyping. If you have a know-how, like Lamu’s craftsmen for instance and you can use this space – in exchange for an allowance -, you can produce and even design a brand new business model. On the flip side, if you wish to develop skills to increase your chances to enter the labour-market, the Lab offers training programs regarding 3D printing, social business mentoring or prototyping practices. 

Operation flow of the lab:

  • Team Formation based on diversified experiences and individual interests and assigned to work on specific projects.
  • Ideation – brainstorming and generation of ideas that could be adopted to make the projects more viable for fabrication and implementation. A rudimentary proof of concept is done followed by a briefing session from the teams
  • Designing – The lab is equipped with an array of computer-controlled machines that enable rapid prototyping using different digital fabrication technologies but first the idea to be fabricated has to be designed using a computer aided design software.

Prototyping-involves the use of available machines, hand tools and materials to build the designs illustrated on the computer. The innovators with careful guidance by the lab’s experts are able to program and work with the digital fabrication tools to make intricate cuts on wooden and metallic materials.

Deployment & Impact

The lab started operations in Oct 2020 with limited activity. This included hosting some virtual and semi virtual training in design thinking and digital fabrication. The lab, through the QRCS funded project, also held the first prototyping week which included three teams of youths working on different projects. One team designed and built the first prototype of a rocking chair, another team designed and built an incense burner for the mosque and a miniature Lamu door while the third team designed and prototyped a cabro brick from recyclable plastic. This contributes to several outcomes, namely productive youth engagement and introduction of modern equipment and technologies for manufacturing. In early 2021, the Lab hosted a week of activity focusing on recycling and upcycling projects as well as a program targeting school going children focused on generating interest in STEM.

As part of finishing space’s setting-up we have also conducted interviews with local stakeholders to advocate for the Lab’s development as well as spotting actual needs to design our programs accordingly.