Knowledge, Organization and Technical Systems (Costech) - EA 2223

The UTC-Costech Laboratory is a pluridisciplinary research unit where research scientists work on the triple interface “Man, Technology, Society” for the purpose of describing scientifically, analysing, modelling and the design of tooled interactions in complex social, technical situations. The area explored constitutes a crossroad for engineering sciences, philosophy and social sciences (cognition, economics and management and ICTs). The Costech laboratory analyses the technical aspects of these interactions in human experience and social practice.


UTC-Costech combines an ambitious, non-conventional conceptual research programme where the emphasis is placed on testing the hypotheses in real technical, societal and organisational situations. Among the thematics examined, we note :

  • digital equipment, uses and new interactive social practice,
  • the human, social and technical conditions underscoring in situ experimentation with tools, whether in individual or collective format,
  • new forms of economic and social coordination in a context of pervasive digital networks and capitalism of cognition-related phenomena.

From the UTC-Costech point of view, technologies are concomitantly the objects and the means for our research. We participate in the implementation of real devices: designing the interfaces and coupling units, participating in the innovation processes that derive from the analyses, implementation of pedagogical or participative systems and development of value-added strategies.

Research Teams and Thematics

The Costech laboratory currently has 3 interdisciplinary groups:

  • Cognitive Research and Enaction Design (CRED)
  • Complexity, Networks and Innovation (CRI)
  • Analysis of Digital Interactive Practices (EPIN)

Costech is especially engaged in 3 transverse priorities:

So-called 'Care Technologies'

Those covering attention and care for others. The technical support for these social connections (electronic democracy, digital literacy, technology and gender, ecological responsibilities, serious games ...) and the technologies uses to support care for others in heath matters (e-health and monitoring), perceptive substitution in aid systems for handicapped persons, dynamic mapping of health care systems...).

Data-driven intelligence

From large scale data itself (big data and open data spin-offs), via dynamics analytics and data intelligence (processing of information) up to the new-comers, viz., data scientists which may lead to a new hybrid governed by hypotheses and experimentation and also by data-driven (inductive methodology) and discovery of statistical patterns and even 'knowledge per se' in a wider connotation (knowledge discovery) that can be exploited as new services implemented to giants in data processing.

Digital synergies

Generalisation of information uses in social practices and interactions plus a multiplication of new "digital" socio-technical processes, which call for part computer science skills, in hybrid combinations with arts, social sciences, leading to deep-reaching transformations in several application areas: the definition and identification of professional categories (professions, skills, statutes, training ...).


There is a group of scientific interest (GIS) called "the Technology and Social Sciences Unit" which groups together four higher education and technological research establishments: IPLB and the three French universities of technology (UTC, UTBM and UTT). The objective assigned to the GIS is to promote research and teaching of social sciences in a technological context.

UTC-Costech has a close partnership with several of its spin-off companies: Linkfluence, Intellitech, Cooprex, Novitact... plus other partners such as: Oxylane, EDF, IRCAM, Ineris, Orange Lab., Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, CNES, Association Décider Ensemble and the national Committee for Public debate (CNDP)...

The Costech Laboratory is involved in numerous research projects - with both private and public funding - and in technological development programmes.

Picardie Regional projects

  • Development of perception substitution for the blind with ITOIP (acronym for Tactile Interactions to aid Orientation, Information and Presence), Portinteract (the tactile Internet Portal) and Spacei (perceptive substitution for attention in digital interactions), all three projects being supported financially by the Picardie Region.
  • Development of tactile devices for preliminary, collaborative design work using a multi-user tactile table (Tatin) - the Intelligent Design Platform (Tatin-Pic), in collaboration with the UTC-Heudiasyc laboratory.
  • PRECIP, in a collaboration with secondary school teachers on the topic of digital writing which is a subject matter that can be taught in multi-media, interactive or collaborative modes.

ANR Project

Digital writing and creation, with ENEID (acronym for digital eternities, post-mortem digital identities and innovative memorial uses of the web seen from literary genre analysis perspective).

Bpifrance project

Studies on the digital print with the DynamiCity project, in a partnership with the University of Shanghai, China, to better understand the specific features of the conurbations of Paris and Shanghai analysed via digital data, throwing light on the best opportunities and valorisation of the data bases compared with other information from various social networks, etc. This project is carried out in collaboration with Linkfluence who ensure the gathering and analysis of the data and Xerox documents.

Costech works with the 'project nursery' which houses projects initiated in partnership with the research world and seeking to become self-standing. These projects would normally then move to the UTC Innovation Centre (e.g.,the Feeltact Project).

The research activities are coordinated round interdisciplinary "translation"workshops, PhD level seminars, annual seminars such as Phiteco (Philosophy,Technology and Cognition), CCT (Communicating Technological Knowledge) and the Technology & Philosophy platform.

Cognitive Replacement Aid

Charles Lenay and the team at Costech (acronym in French for knowledge and social sciences) which is a laboratory that has left a mark on UTC's image which otherwise would be seen just as a world of engineers. Learning what techniques and technology do to us, impacting even the way we think, the way we perceive things, our human and material history... the Costech teams constantly raise new questions for all the research scientists at UTC.

"We examined the question of cognitive replacement on the basis of work done by the American scientist BACH-Y-RITA". What he called Tactile Vision Substitution System (TVSS) transforms images from cameras into tactile sensations that the brain can perceive and translate in the case of a blind person fitted with appropriate instrument, into something the blind person can"see". "The question is, why did TVSS not meet with wide-scale success?" questions Charles Lenay."What we observed was that this form of perception did not procure any emotional input, contrary to what happens when we use the other senses. Technology here is therefore not a substitute but more a replacement aid."

The UTC Costech team came up with and developed another system, TACTOS, that enables blind persons to see computer screens and to recognize various shapes (icons, windows, columns). A screen marker (e.g., a mouse guided arrow ..) moves across the screen and triggers a tactile sensation via a small generator box placed under the index finger. When using a TACTOS fitted device, a blind person can "spatialise" information.

A research programme has been launched with the Picardie Region authorities to develop a 'Tactile Interface for Orientation, Interaction and Presence' (ITOIP). "With a portable unit like a GPS, a blind person can discretely receive information (in tactile form) that characterises his/her surroundings". This application opens up routes to other possibilities, in introducing tactile "encounters" in a virtual space.

Could we envisage Internet carrying emotion? "Well, the very fact of encountering another person's marker is significant, because we then know that the other person has identified our presence". The Costech scientists are busy assembling a tactile, emotional "vocabulary" using graphic emoticons as seen in e-mail messages. "Very often" insists Charles Lenay (thinking of recent remote control devices) "research for technologies to assist a given category of persons ends up helping everyone."


Directeur du laboratoire COSTECH
François-Xvier Guchet
Phone : 03 44 23 44 25 | Contact by email

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