Visiting Laboratories as Sites of Knowledge Economy
The laboratories at the Politehnica University of Timișoara (UPT) are specialised facilities where scientific research and experimental development transpire in various fields. Here, researchers, educators, students, and engineers conduct experiments and analyses to deepen their understanding of natural phenomena, create new technologies, and contribute to scientific research.
The manner in which the knowledge generated in these laboratories plays a crucial role in Timișoara’s economy, was a key research area for the Bright Cityscapes programme. The establishment and enhancement of these laboratories often arose in response to the demands of the economic environment in the western region of the country, with substantial financial backing from economic partners.
The historical relationship between the university and local industries has been deeply intertwined, with local businesses providing significant funding since the university’s inception in 1920. The growth of UPT is a testament to this collaboration.
Historically, the city lacked a local knowledge producer, leading individuals in this region to seek education in Vienna or Budapest due to historical ties to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After 1918, when Romania became a modern state, the need for the city’s own university to train local professionals for the city’s factories became crucial.
Today, the economic landscape demands applied research, often through collaboration contracts for testing new solutions, solving problems, and providing specialised consulting services. Industrial research in UPT’s laboratories frequently relies on research grants obtained from national or European competitions. Notably, over a quarter of the university’s research funding comes from contracts with Romanian companies.
UPT has a strong reputation for research in areas such as energy, environment and climate change, engineering sciences, information communication technology, space and security, eco-nano technologies and advanced materials, bioeconomy, applied life sciences and biotechnologies, and computer science, but also in mathematics, economic sciences, and health.
In order to understand the role of UPT and its laboratories in Timișoara’s knowledge economy and geography through embodied and relational terms, the Bright Cityscapes team conducted intensive laboratory visits, engaging with as many of the university’s laboratories as possible in two seperate two-day visits. These visits involved succinct interactions where laboratory leaders condensed their research into impactful summaries.
The Bright Cityscapes team posed bold questions about the role of laboratory’s activities, and their areas of focus, leading to enriching conversations. For instance, a laboratory researching electrical batteries for buses sparked discussions about public transport connectivity and urban design. Research into hydropower led to conversations about water usage in various landscapes. Similarly, research on the reuse of asphalt after road demolitions prompted discussions about material transformation and its applications.
These are but some of the many interactions that contributed to the Bright Cityscapes team fostering an understanding of Timișoara’s knowledge ecosystem, as well as the academic structure of the university. By physically opening the doors of the laboratories, the visits became intimate moments, allowing participants to closely relate to the activities and research trajectories within the individual labs.
The visits also gave insights into how to establish a collaboration between UPT researchers and international designers. The necessity and structure of an open call became clear, thanks to the visits. This resulted in the open call reaching researchers whose interest in design resonated with the Bright Cityscapes approach, which made matching researchers with designers more conducive to successful collaborations.
The visits also familiarised the university and its community with the programme, becoming the initial contact point for most candidates who later applied for the open call. There was also interest and curiosity sparked, resulting in an enthusiastic reception of the subsequent exhibitions.
In all, the visits to the UPT laboratories were pivotal in building trust, and in demonstrating that the programme encompassed numerous aspects of city knowledge and processes at various scales.
Photos from the following labs:
- High Voltage Laboratory, Faculty of Electrical and Power Engineering
- Digital Signal Processing Laboratories (DSPLabs), Faculty of Automation and Computing
- Laboratory for Hydraulic Machines, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
- Formula Student workshop - UPT Racing
- Engine Laboratory, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
- Laboratory of Steel Structures, Faculty of Civil Engineering