Tomas Bata University has opened a new Footwear Research Centre in Zlín to return Zlín to the map as a town of footwear, link footwear research with practice and support young designers and established footwear companies. The move to open the centre was initiated by 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 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. The centre focuses on research and testing of materials and shoes in the Centre of Polymer Systems. This is in tune with the need to replace traditional technology with 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 Sedlarík, 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. The lab will have facilities 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 Ludek Suchomel, a technologist at 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.
The centre employs young scientists as well as experienced technologists. R and 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.
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 finalised 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 Sáha.