I approach a huge industrial building somewhere in Renens. Dr. Carmelo Bisognano (co-founder of UniverCité) welcomes me at the front door with a big smile on his face.
He opens the door by pressing his plastic card to the electronic lock and we enter the building. Coming up to the second floor we enter a huge space with machines and boxes everywhere.
“Just 6 months ago there was nothing here! And look around now!”
I pass by some Sequencer and PCR machines. With a touch of vintage, but looking completely functional.
All the equipment was donated. And that is a funny thing that we don’t realize sometimes. You do not always need high technology last edition machinery to make simple scientific experiments.
The idea is not new. The concept of open and community-driven citizen biology lab focusing on fast prototyping of low-cost projects already existed in Paris. However UniverCité is probably one of the biggest open lab spaces in Europe. The place looks completely futuristic to me. Lab space and comfortable working area, and there is even a Trone arcade machine in the corner.
Hackuarium is not a public lab associated to any Univesity. In that sense they are completely independent and autonomous to chose their own projects and develop their own ideas.
It is a place of incredible freedom and inspiration. Creativity is in the air. Here extremely gifted people from different disciplines gather together in their free time to develop complex projects. The format is informal and very different from academic science. But this does not mean that they can do anything they want. Each new project is evaluated by two highly professional managers for its feasibility and accordance to ethical policy.
Impressive that Hackuarium has started its activities not so long ago and there are already several exciting projects going on.
Bio Ink, soil decontamination, robot that will be sent to the South Pole, Bioinspired Designs – these are just a few exciting things going on here.
So what about the commercial aspect?
“Of course the idea of do it yourself biology is open access. However, if we come up with something commercially attractive we can create a company on top of it.”
Apart from Hackuarium there are several companies and associations located at UniverCité (FixMe, Swiss Koo and soon a brewery Nebuleuse). The companies are being attracted by the unique spirit of innovation, inspiration, fun, creativity as well as unique type of thinking outside the box.