Re-establishing the reputation of Zlín as the town of footwear, linking footwear research with practice and supporting young promising designers as well as established footwear companies – these are the aims of the new Footwear Research Centre that was officially launched by Tomas Bata University in Zlín during an opening ceremony held at the end of April.
“The Centre will serve as a research unit with a global scope of activities. It is intended for testing of footwear materials, technologies and design. We want to offer its services not only to world-renowned footwear brands but also to start-up entrepreneurs,” said Prof. Petr Sáha, who initiated the establishment of the Centre.
The Footwear Research Centre is a component part of the University Institute, which has been intensively cooperating with the Bata company for a long time; the Centre focuses on testing of materials and shoes in the Centre of Polymer Systems, for example.
“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 the very fields that we focus on at the University,” added Vladimír Sedlařík, Rector of TBU.
The Footwear Research Centre also houses the recently accredited Shoe Testing Laboratory, thanks to which it will be possible to test physic-mechanical properties of footwear materials and products. “We are able to evaluate whether the material is suitable or not for advanced footwear. We also test, for example, the suitability of surface treatment of footwear materials from the point of view of resistance to repeated bending, and that both at common temperatures and temperatures of down to minus 25 degrees Celsius,” described Luděk Suchomel, a technologist working at the Centre, who has more than thirty years of professional experience.
“We also have machines here that are able to evaluate even the hygienic properties of shoes, namely water vapour permeability, which is particularly important for winter shoes and luxury work shoes intended, for example, for firemen, soldiers or special service units,” explained Jarmila Roubínková, another technologist working at the Shoe Testing Laboratory.
At the present time, the Centre employs both young scientists and experienced technologists. Research and development activities and practice are thus interconnected. The transfer of acquired knowledge from the sphere 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, companies and regional administration authorities,” added Ivana Bartoníková, Director of the TTC.
The newly established Footwear Research Centre will also offer opportunities for the implementation of projects focused on shoe design and construction. “We are dealing with new formulas for rubber shoes, we concentrate special attention on healthy footwear for children, we are preparing filaments for 3D prints of soles, and also the so-called “smart shoe” project is about to be completed; and we have found an application for magnetic hydrogel in the shoe inserts. There are so many interesting projects and I am very happy to know that there will be even more of them,” said Professor Sáha.