Footwear Research Centre Opened in Zlín
Returning Zlín to the map as a town of footwear, linking footwear research with practice and supporting young promising designers and established footwear companies – all the above should be delivered by the new Footwear Research Centre opened by Tomas Bata University in Zlín on 30 April 2019. This achievement fulfils the vision of Professor Petr Sáha, who has been trying to bring footwear back to Zlín for years.
“Our plan is to build up a research unit which has a global scope of activities aimed at research and testing of footwear materials, technologies and design. We will offer a wide range of services not only to world-renowned footwear brands but also to start-up entrepreneurs in this field,” says Prof. Petr Sáha, who initiated the establishment of the Centre.
The Footwear Research Centre is a component part of the University Institute, which has had intense collaboration with the Bata company in the long term. To be more precise, the Centre focuses on research and testing of materials and shoes in the Centre of Polymer Systems. Now the time is coming when traditional technology is to be replaced by high-tech production that will respect personal wishes of customers.
“We want to return to the tradition that belongs to Zlín. But today’s footwear technology also includes good marketing, design, material science, IT technology, chemistry and biomechanics. And these are exactly the fields we have at the university,” adds Vladimír Sedlařík, Rector of Tomas Bata University.
The recently accredited Shoe Testing Laboratory will offer the Footwear Research Centre opportunities to focus on footwear research on a comprehensive basis under a single roof. In this lab, it will be possible to test physico-mechanical properties of footwear materials and products.
“We are able to evaluate whether the material is suitable or not for advanced footwear. Also, for example, we can test the suitability of surface treatment of footwear from the point of view of resistance to repeated bending, both at normal temperatures and temperatures of down to minus 25 degrees Celsius,” says Luděk Suchomel, a technologist employed in the Centre, who has more than 30 years of experience in testing.
“We also have machines here which are capable of evaluating the hygienic properties of shoes. This refers to water vapour permeability, which is especially important for winter shoes and luxury work shoes intended for instance for firemen, soldiers or special service units,” explains Jarmila Roubínková, another technologist working at the Shoe Testing Laboratory.
At present, the Centre employs young scientists as well as experienced technologists. Thus, R&D activities and practice are interconnected. Transfer of acquired knowledge from the field of basic research to practice is ensured at the University by the Technology Transfer Centre (TTC).
The transfer of knowledge to practice is based on Bata-inspired business principles applied during the development of the technology transfer process based on cooperation and strengthening of the links between the University, businesses and regional administration authorities,” adds Ivana Bartoníková, TTC Director.
The newly established Footwear Research Centre will also offer opportunities for the implementation of projects in the area of footwear design and construction.
“We are dealing with new formulas for rubber footwear, we are interested in healthy footwear for children and preparing filaments for 3D prints of soles. Also, the so-called “smart shoe” project is about to be finalized and we have found an application for magnetic hydrogel in the shoe inserts. In fact, there is a whole lot of interesting projects and I am very happy to see that there will be even more of them,” concludes Petr Sáha.
The importance of the newly established Centre is also evidenced by the fact that many significant guests from Czech and international companies as well as public-sector institutions have accepted invitations to attend the official opening ceremony. Members of the Bata family did not miss the event either, as they have been supporting the Zlin-based University since its establishment.