Pavlo Novikov, the Consultant of Centre 4.0 KPI DIH, representative of the scientific community from National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”, Associate Professor of the Department of Energy Process Automation, shared his impressions of participating in the Ukrainian business mission at the Smart City Forum Czechia & Ukraine, 25-27 April in Prague.
Thanks to the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance and CzechInno, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Kyiv, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, the Ukrainian delegation participated in the Smart City Forum Czechia & Ukraine in person.
The programme of the business mission “Czechia-Ukraine” included three days:
- 25 April. Meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic. Meeting with Czech companies and member organizations of the Business Club in Ukraine. Meeting with representatives of the Embassy of Ukraine in the Czech Republic.
- 26 April. Smart City Forum Czechia & Ukraine. The purpose of the forum was to establish ties to unite Ukrainian and Czech cooperation in the field of “smart cities-regions-communities”, to strengthen cooperation on specific projects that could help the current and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. The first half of the day included presentations by representatives of the Ukrainian delegation, as well as reports by Czech participants. The second half of the day included B2B meetings with forum participants, as well as an excursion to the test laboratories of the Czech Technical University.
- 27 April. Excursion to the city of Pilsen to visit Smart City technology development facilities. Morning: excursion to the SITMP competence centre in Pilsen. Afternoon: excursion to the Pilsen Smart City Testbed.
Czech Republic-Ukraine Smart City Forum
The Ukrainian Cluster Alliance delegation to the Czech Republic-Ukraine Smart City Forum consisted of 14 people, including the heads of APPAU and Kyiv Tech Cluster, representatives of the regions of Odesa, Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Bucha, advisors and deputy mayors. I represented the Digital Innovation HUB Centre 4.0 KPI DIH, which operates on the basis of National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”.
The Forum was held at the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (hereinafter referred to as CIIRC). The Institute is a subdivision of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU). CTU is comparable to National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute” in terms of the number of students and academic staff. In the academic year 2022/2023, CTU had about 19,000 students. Structurally, CTU consists of 8 faculties and 6 institutes. The fundamental difference between faculties and institutes is that only faculties teach students, while research work is concentrated in institutes. Institutes do not teach students. Study programmes at institutes are designed for the PhD level. In accordance with the division of the main functions of faculties and institutes, the sources of funding are also different. Faculties are funded by the university, while the activities of institutes are mainly funded by European Union grant projects and, to a lesser extent, by programmes of the Czech Republic. Typically, a grant project is funded by 15-20% by commercial organizations, which are usually project participants.
Features of CIIRC’s scientific and research activities
The CIIRC hosts the Digital Innovation Hub in close cooperation with the National Centre for Industry 4.0 (see CIIRC organizational structure below). In the first phase, the Centre for Industry 4.0 was established as an independent financial and operational unit under the auspices of the CIIRC at CTU. The Centre uses the core infrastructure of the Industry 4.0 Testbed at CTU. Similar or compatible infrastructure will later be established at the Technical University of Brno and other universities.
The CIIRC has a separate Project Management Office.
The CIIRC’s hallmark is the Industry 4.0 Testbed. The Testbed of Industry 4.0 has about 20 robots from industry leaders such as KUKA, ABB, and others. There are many cobots among the available robots.
The tasks that researchers are working on in the laboratory include refining the positioning of robots based on computer vision technology, optimizing the operation of production conveyors, and studying the safety of robot operation. In the machine toolroom, they are working on optimizing the cooling of workpieces during milling, developing methods of printing metal parts on 3D printers, some machines use a combination of milling and 3D printing technologies, and testing the use of robotic manipulators for processing large parts and products that simply cannot be placed in typical machine tools, etc.
This Industry 4.0 Testbed was built as part of the Horizont 2020 funding of the Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP) project.
RICAIP project description:
“The RICAIP project develops a framework for the establishment of a Research and Innovation Centre for Advanced Industrial Production by leading research organizations in the Czech Republic: The Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University and the Central European Institute of Technology of the Brno University of Technology, in close partnership with renowned German research organizations: The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence and the Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology. The partnership will result in the transfer of knowledge and experience from German to Czech partners, as well as strategic long-term cooperation at all levels of research, education and innovation. This will guarantee the Centre’s unique position in the European Research Area as a leader in advanced industrial production research. The RICAIP Centre will accommodate new areas of research and innovation in Industry 4.0, namely multi-site manufacturing and manufacturing systems development. The centre will provide a distributed but virtually integrated experimental facility. It will be physically based at the research facilities of the Czech partners, complemented by a corresponding remote site jointly managed by the German partners. The aim of the project is to create an international centre for Industry 4.0 that will bring new intelligent, safe and sophisticated solutions for industrial production at multiple sites of the future. The long-term vision is to turn the RICAIP testbed into a European research infrastructure for Industry 4.0.”
The RICAIP project is now complete. One of the outputs of this project is the CIIRC-based Industry 4.0 Testbed at CTU. According to official data, the total funding for the project was about 400 thousand euros. But the total investment in the Industry 4.0 Testbed is measured in millions of euros. The main funding came from German partners. The strategy of building a network of such laboratories in the European Union is to accelerate innovative solutions for industry in order to optimize industrial production and reduce its cost, as well as to ensure the strategic independence of the European Union’s economy from the Chinese economy, where the world’s main production facilities have been concentrated over the past 15 years.
The Testbed of Industry 4.0’s model of operation is to conduct research activities commissioned by large industrial manufacturers such as Škoda, VW (automotive), Pilsner (brewing), etc. CTU students can be engaged as researchers at the Industry 4.0 Testbed on a paid basis.
Innovative activities of the Smart city in Pilsen
The third day was devoted to getting acquainted with the organisations of the city of Pilsen, whose main activity is the development of Smart City technologies.
In the first half of the day, there was an excursion to the SITMP competence centre of Pilsen (Správy informačních technologií města Plzně, hereinafter SITMP). The SITMP is a subdivision of the local municipality and is also financed from the city budget.
SITMP consists of 4 divisions:
- IT Service. Responsible for the sustainable development of systems and innovations in the field of digitalisation of public administration.
One of the projects of the service is the intelligent video surveillance system of the city of Pilsen, which is being developed directly for the local police. A copy of the monitoring room located in the local police department is located in the SITMP premises to develop new solutions.
The main sources of information for the emergency response of the police The main sources of information for the police emergency response are video from surveillance cameras located throughout the city, environmental monitoring sensors (CO2, CO, SO2, etc.), and audio recordings from sound sensors. At the same time, artificial intelligence algorithms are used to detect abnormal input data. For example, when an unusual sound is detected (scream, gunshot, explosion, etc.), an emergency notification is sent to the system, the notification is supported by the original sound recording, and the system is trained to identify what kind of anomaly has been detected. When processing video, artificial intelligence is used to analyse the busiest routes used by citizens, identify suspicious people, analyse video after the fact, etc.
I would like to note that each system (video surveillance, audio surveillance, environmental monitoring) is a separate independent system. To integrate various systems into a single system of a higher hierarchical level, the iVISEC integration platform is used.
- Robotics Centre. This is a training facility for school teachers and students. Services provided by the centre include:
- trainings for school teachers on the methodology of introducing modern information technologies into the school learning process;
- Courses and activities for children and schoolchildren (programming in Scratch, working with 3D printers, laser cutting and engraving, etc.), with 3D printers available for students from the age of 10
- holding public events for the public on holidays, memorable dates, etc.
The Robotics Centre employs 7 people. All schools in Pilsen cooperate with SITMP. There are 26 schools in total.
- SIT drones. The unit is part of the emergency response service. Drones are used for:
- search for missing people on the ground, in the forest;
- scanning the area for lost items;
- search for suspicious objects;
- inspections in hard-to-reach places, spaces, and indoors;
- checking the health of smoke detectors in rooms with very high ceilings;
- scanning premises to build 3D models of buildings;
- collecting data from road accident scenes, etc.
- SIT Port. The unit is actually a hub for startup projects. A detailed tour of the unit was not conducted.
According to SITMP director Ludek Shantor, it took 14 years to build this organization. One of the goals of this organization is to attract young people from Pilsen to work in local companies. As Pilsen is located close to Prague (80 km), the big city encourages young professionals to move there. The example of SITMP is not typical for the Czech Republic. The SITMP in Pilsen is a unique example within the whole Czech Republic.
In the afternoon, there was a tour of the Smart City Polygon. This polygon is actually a workshop of OMEXOM GA Energo. OMEXOM specializes in solutions for the supply and distribution of electricity.
The Smart City Polygon is testing innovative approaches to street lighting, security systems for closed areas, garbage collection, rainwater use, monitoring of car parking, management of electric vehicle charging stations, gas charging stations, monitoring of energy consumption, etc.
An interesting approach to lighting the territory is to use two types of lights. The first one is switched on when it starts to get dark. The colour of the light is closer to cold lighting. At this time, conventional soft lighting is not effective. Also, colder lighting helps to concentrate a person. This is important in terms of focusing people’s attention when they return from work, whether by car, public transport or on foot, in order to reduce the likelihood of accidents, accidents, etc. When it is dark enough on the streets, soft lighting closer to the yellow light range is switched on. This type of lighting encourages people to relax. In the morning, the cold lighting is switched on again until it is sufficiently light.
Smart City Polygon’s activity is to demonstrate solutions for customers at a real facility in order to sell solutions. The financing of Smart City Polygon is mainly provided by OMEXOM GA Energo. Smart City Polygon also has experience of participating in a European Union grant project to implement charging stations for electric vehicles.
The experience of the CIIRC and the RICAIP project in establishing a network of modern Industry 4.0 research sites at universities (Prague and Brno) is an example of effective research and development. The solutions being developed in the laboratories are new and complex, requiring both in-depth theoretical training and practical testing. Such tasks are supported by grants from the European Union. But it is worth noting that European grants are not the main driver from a financial point of view. The example of the Industry 4.0 Testbed at the CIIRC shows that the cost of the laboratory is covered by less than 10% of the RICAIP grant project, while the main funding is provided by large European consortia (Škoda, Siemens) and industrial clusters. The example of the municipal organisation SITMP also demonstrates financial support from the city government. This suggests that government policy and state development programmes are the main drivers of the development of a modern economy involving innovative digital solutions.
The role of universities and, in particular, specialized expert centres such as DIH is to concentrate technical facilities, laboratories, stands for the practical implementation of the solutions being developed, as well as qualified young people (students, young researchers, project managers) to carry out research activities. The provision of Test-Before-Invest services by a university or its separate subdivision is of interest to organizations that do not have the resources for independent R&D or wish to reduce R&D costs, lack competencies in certain areas, or want to find partners to develop innovative solutions.
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