At the beginning of October, UTC had the privilege and pleasure to welcome the ‘scientist-adventurer’ Bertrand Piccard to the Maison de la Culture in Amiens. He gave a lecture on the theme: «When pioneering spirits invent the future» against the background of his experience with Solar Impulse. A look back at the amount of creativity and improvisation it takes to achieve the impossible sometimes.
Solar Impulse was not designed nor built to carry passengers but to carry a message. We want to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering spirit, encouraging people to question their certainties. Our world needs new solutions to improve the quality of life for humanity. Clean technologies and renewable energies are part of this,» Bertrand Piccard reminds us from the outset during the conference he held in Amiens at the invitation of UTC. In 2016, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg accomplished the feat of flying around the world without fuel, using only the energy of the Sun, aboard the solar plane Solar Impulse 2. A human and technological epic, capable of inspiring the environmental policies and society of tomorrow. Its strength: creative innovation at the service of a vision. The combined strengths of more than fifty employees, supported by a hundred experts and advisors, have made it possible to push back the limits and achieve impressive technological progress. Numerous anecdotes in this adventure also remind us of the extent to which adaptability and improvisation were also required in what was so well-prepared. «For example, the Solar Impulse 2 solar plane had to be sheltered in a specially designed hangar in Nagoya, in central Japan, during the journey. We had to make a stopover there while waiting for good weather. We had to improvise and our team had a difficult time.
Ambition and humility
In this cutting-edge and futuristic project, empiricism is not the order of the day. Each concept, each part of the solar aircraft must pass several tests to be certified “certified ready to fly’. «I have set up a whole mechanism for innovation through creativity. For me, innovation is also based on psychological notions. It means getting into a state of mind. It’s about looking for something other than what you know. It requires a lot of honesty, humility and ambition,» says the Swiss ‘scientist’ who is also a psychiatrist. He immediately accepted the invitation of UTC, because ‘it is a technical university and it is very important to recall the creative, innovative and ecological role that technology must advocate’. For him, to innovate is to break with the status quo, with what we have always done and always thought. Artistic creativity and technological innovation ultimately use the same process. «We try to break the paradigms to break away and try to find other things. The artist, like the explorer, like the innovator, are people who are not satisfied with what they have. They want something else, something different and better. The aviation industry is now caught in a straitjacket. If you are bigger according to them, you are heavier. However, with Solar Impulse, despite its size, we have managed to make it light. In fact, it was the naval industry that managed to build this plane, because the aeronautics industry thought it was impossible.
* Play on “savant” and “adventurer”