How to grow up yet stay the same?

UTC-Compiegne, as a Founder Member of the Sorbonne Universities Cluster, has opened its local innovation ecosystem, its experimental territorial infrastructure, for its partners. We recall that UTC itself benefits from an experimental university status and is now spreading its academic model outside France as it has already done in France. The thrust covers two strong concepts, one of which consists of boosting technological research (with UTT-Troyes) on complex systems already under development in Shanghai. The other concept revolves round its cursus based on flexible pedagogy which enhances training and aims at closing the gap with the entrepreneurial world with long placements and workshop projects. This is now being exported to countries abroad, such as currently to Brazil.

How to grow up yet stay the same?

“Open Labs represent the future”

Question and Answer (Q/A) session with Prof. Saadi Lahlou, Dept of Social Psychology, London School of Economics (LSE) and member of the UTC Scientific Advisory Committee.


How do you assess UTC’s innovation-intensive policies?

What strikes me most are the transdisciplinary features I see in all UTC projects. With a growing specializations in scientific skills, it now is becoming increasing difficult to integrate all the elements when designing a new technical device and often the ‘proof’ of product/process validity of the design only comes later, in the market-place. This is probably why a great many projects fall apart, collapse or require costly adaptations in order to comply with market expectations.

UTC has taken this problem into its stride. While continuing to progress and advance the science bases of their specialties, the UTC scientists do not hesitate to confront their findings with other specialists and with the real world conditions. They are not afraid to mix technical and philosophical questions. And they are quite right in doing so: in biotechnologies and energy engineering for example, ethical issues have now become a predominant theme.

Where does the interest for ‘living labs’ lie?

The concept provides a real way to progress towards a better level of interdisciplinary exchange and work by integrating real use constraints upstream – uses, ethics, costs … Taking such constraints into account raises problems when you try to model the system, because the number of parameters becomes rapidly unmanageable. Often, rather than attempting to model all possible situations and outcomes, it will prove more efficient to test a trial product with users in conditions that are close to reality and then proceed by trial and error, gradually improving the product/process.

What you are doing here is introduce reality factors … and this way you at UTC have come to the “living lab” concept. University labs then can integrate reality and bring end users into the circuit. The future now lies in ‘open labs’ where the scientists come out of their ‘ivory’ labs to test their innovations in the real world and this in turn proves even more efficient as approach. This is, as I see it, the new orientation of UTC when UTC talks about the future of its “living lab”.