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A mosaic of creative spaces connects knowledge and innovation
marianne [dot] loor [at] fsi [dot] lu [dot] se (Marianne Loor)
- published 16 June 2022
A regional project led by Lund University called Make Space för Verkstad has mapped out around 70 creative spaces and labs around Skåne with the aim of highlighting a common infrastructure. The spaces range from artists´workshops to testbeds, labs and hubs within academia or with external partners who can drive the development of new innovations.
– These spaces are vital if we are to have a diverse and flourishing mix of companies in the creative and cultural sector that can develop, scale and drive innovation projects. The spaces exists, which is evident in the mapping report, but they need to be more visible and accessible as well as collaborate more so that even more exciting projects can come true, says Charlotte Lorentz Hjorth, Project Manager at the Collaboration Office, Lund University.
Two of Lund University’s creative learning environments are X-Lab and the Cognitive Robotics Lab. While the two labs have differing aims and functions, they have recently discovered linkages that reveal how well they complement each other. They exist primarily for the University’s students, research staff and employees, but are accessible to other parties in various ways.
X-Lab – Open for innovation
It’s full steam ahead at X-Lab, now that the various sections of the specially built cube at the Faculty of Engineering, LTH, are open to several groups. Signage marks the facility as a Student Innovation Center, and that is an important point. Students, research staff and employees of the University can learn to use various techniques and equipment here, develop their ideas as well as get help to take their projects and prototypes forward.
“We are very proud of the custom-built ‘cube’, where users can access the four separate workshops we currently have – one for woodwork, one for textiles, our digital workshop and the ‘ideas room’. Later, as we expand into the full-scale space, we will have more room for courses, for creative meetings and a film and photographic studio for promoting completed projects,” explains Anders Johansson, who is responsible for coordinating activities at X-Lab with external groups.
Today, students come to X-Lab to create, test and build prototypes, often as part of their degree project. Various clubs and associations will occupy the adjacent corridors and a lounge is planned for the upper floor, which will give a view of the whole space. In the longer term, Lund University’s innovation unit, LU Innovation, will also have premises at X-Lab in order to maintain a presence on site.
Participation and accessibility
X-Lab’s organisation is structured with growth in mind and is supported by a central management group as well as student involvement. A handful of committed students deliver introductory and health and safety courses; they ensure that the lab is kept tidy and that the lab maintains an inviting atmosphere. The core group also includes researchers and employees, all working as ambassadors and marketeers as well as building bridges with new users or interested parties.
A mobile facility has been built, enabling X-Lab to reach other sites and new users. The Lund Carnival is one such opportunity, while at Campus Helsingborg those who visit the Our Future City exhibition during the H22 City Expo will also come into contact with X-Lab. The city of the future will need all kinds of creative hubs and test-beds.
At the lab - people and robots meet
Just before the outbreak of the pandemic, the Cognitive Robotics Lab received funding to develop as a research infrastructure and become even more accessible to a larger number of users. It is now finally possible to resume that work and it is hoped that more collaborations and activities will take place. Closer links with X-Lab were established in 2022.
Developed in-house, the lab’s own robot, EPI, is advanced but also deliberately simple, designed to be easy to use. Its trademark large eyes can be used to investigate how we use eye-movements in various ways while communicating our emotions. The human need for affirmation, recognition and understanding of others’ situations and emotional states by using intonation, gestures or body language are central questions that Birger Johansson and his colleagues at the Cognitive Robotics Lab are researching and testing.
“We are able, for example, to investigate how architects ought to be planning for the use of robots in built environments – perhaps as receptionists, or extra resources in schools and hospitals,” Birger Johansson explains. “Our projects concern cognitive development, attention and the acquisition of motor skills as well as many other aspects of human thought and the human brain.”
Birger Johansson hopes to see new and increased collaboration within the University, with industry and developers who need access to test-robots and the expertise their robot handlers have in interaction between humans and machines.
Make Space för Verkstad
This project aims to establish links between the 70 or so different creative spaces that have been identified in Skåne. It covers a broad spectrum from the more traditional artists’ studios, open workshops operated by local government to test-beds and labs within academia. It includes innovation hubs that bring together various organisations from both the private and public sectors.
X-Lab is a makerspace at Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering where visitors – including students, staff and to some extent external users – are welcome. X-Lab offers an innovative environment, workshops, and co-working facility. X-Lab’s operations are built upon collaboration and co-production and is the result of an initiative by the Faculty of Engineering.
This lab is used primarily by research staff and students of Cognitive Science, but it is also used for teaching and research purposes by other faculties with the university. Several humanoid robots have been built and they are available for use in the lab. They are used in studies around attention, cognitive development and the acquisition of motor skills.