Successful research venture within AI
Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming central in technical research and development. But eight years ago, when Halmstad University started Center for Applied and Intelligent Systems Research (CAISR), AI was not such a hot topic in Sweden. A recent external evaluation shows that the CAISR initiative has been very successful – the researchers at CAISR have established strong links with the industry and joint research projects have resulted in concrete solutions and patents for challenges in both the automotive industry and within healthcare. A continuation is planned for CAISR with a focus on predictive maintenance of both humans and machines.
”Since the start eight years ago, we are twice as many people and we have carried out a large number of research projects together with companies and organisations”
Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson, project manager for CAISR
At CAISR, research is being done on how heart patients can receive the best possible care, when and how people with dementia should be reminded to take their medication and how to extend the battery life for electric vehicles. The researchers make machines more intelligent and are training social robots to help humans when they fall. All research projects at CAISR have one thing in common, and that is the focus on applied AI. Research projects are largely determined by the needs of society and are done in collaboration with partners in both the private and public sector.
”Research on AI can be applied in many different areas. At CAISR, we have chosen two different application areas: health technology and intelligent vehicles. Since the start eight years ago, we are twice as many people and we have carried out a large number of research projects together with companies and organisations”, says Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson, Professor of Computer Science and project manager for CAISR.
CAISR consists of approximately 40 researchers today and with an annual research turnover of more than SEK 25 million.
“Our ability to apply for and obtain research funding has gradually increased, and we currently have about 80 percent external funding. Almost all of our research projects are done in close collaboration with partners outside of Halmstad University. We have conducted interview studies with our partners and it is clear that the collaboration with us is appreciated”, says Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson.
The Center for Applied Intelligent Systems Research (CAISR) is a long-term research programme at Halmstad University with the aim of building an internationally strong educational and research environment. CAISR is mainly financed with support from the Knowledge Foundation and Halmstad University, as well as large contributions from Vinnova and the Swedish Research Council. The research is carried out in co-production with Swedish industry and several of CAISR’s researchers spend one or two days per week at collaborating companies. CAISR is part of the research environment Embedded and Intelligent Systems (EIS) at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University. When CAISR started in 2012, 28 persons were linked to the center. Today, the staff has almost double to 53 people. The research has resulted in approximately 300 scientific publications, of which 8 are doctoral thesis and 7 licentiate theses. The research has also resulted in several patents with partners.
The scientific focus at CAISR is ’aware’ intelligent systems, which means AI systems that on their own, or almost on their own, can build up knowledge by observing data. The subject expertise in the center is in signal analysis, machine learning and mechatronics, applied on intelligent vehicles and health technology.
Several industrial partners collaborate with researchers from Halmstad University in co-production projects and take an active part in the development of CAISR. The partners are large multinational companies as well as smaller companies, often start-ups. The central application areas for research within CAISR are health technology and intelligent vehicles –something that is well in line with Halmstad University’s two profile areas Health Innovation and Smart Cities and Communities.
CAISR is closely linked to Centre for Health Technology Halland, including the lab Halmstad Intelligent Home, and the Technology Area Aware Intelligent Systems at the EIS research environment.
Voices from Volvo and Region Halland
In a project with Volvo, researchers at CAISR are developing methods for so-called predictive maintenance on buses. This means that on-board data from the bus is analysed so that a prediction can be made of what maintenance needs to be performed on the bus, before it breaks down. Ervin Omerspahic from Volvo Buses:
“I’ve learned a lot from the collaboration with CAISR. I now understand how important it is with cross-functional collaboration. We cannot do everything ourselves, so the partnership with CAISR is necessary.”
Markus Lingman, physician and Strategic Developer at Region Halland, has similar thoughts about CAISR:
“Since I’m a doctor, I’ve spent a long time understanding how to deliver better care. I find it very exciting to see the possibilities with AI where we can take a great step in a new direction, unlike other developments that are more of stepwise modification and refinement.”
A research center that attracts AI competence
CAISR is an interdisciplinary research center at Halmstad University, which for eight years has received funding from the Knowledge Foundation's Research Profiles programme. The goal of this programme is to build an industry-relevant research environment that can reach a strong international position. This means that it should have many researchers, a common scientific agenda, a large volume of research (in time), the ability to publish in top journals within its field and a strategic collaboration with relevant industry. In addition, the research should be in areas where the University has profiled education. Since the start in 2012, the number of people in CAISR has doubled. The recruitment of cutting-edge competence has been successful in strong competition with other universities and with the industry. The amount of teaching has doubled, as courses within AI and Intelligent Systems at Halmstad University are becoming increasingly popular, especially among international students.
Positive results in evaluation
Since the Knowledge Foundation's first funding of CAISR will end at the turn of the year, a final evaluation of CAISR has been made. It states that the research is of a good standard and that a large majority of partner companies are interested in continuing the collaboration.
“We’ve seen a strong development of CAISR over the years. Together with Future Energy at Mälardalen University, CAISR has received the best overall rating if we compare the evaluations made by nine Knowledge Foundation Research Profiles over the past three years. We have been successful in conducting good research, in giving our partner companies significant value for their co-investments and in engaging in close partnerships, despite the fact that several of our partner companies are outside of Halland”, says Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson.
CAISR chose the right focus when it was started, which is confirmed by Stefan Östholm, Manager for the Research Profile programme at the Knowledge Foundation:
“Today, AI and machine learning are among the hottest things to do. When CAISR started almost eight years ago, it was not such a popular field. It is noticeable how industry and academia together form something that in the long run is incredibly interesting.”
CAISR will hopefully continue
The first funding of CAISR from the Knowledge Foundation ends in 2019, but there are good opportunities for a second round:
“We certainly hope for continued funding. We have shown that we have a very good co-production with our partners where the research results make a difference. The plan is that CAISR in the future will focus on applications in predictive maintenance for both machines and people – something that will contribute to both a sustainable industry and a sustainable healthcare system”, says Thorsteinn Rögnvaldsson.
Text: Louise Wandel
Photo: Ida Fridvall, Volvo and Joachim Brink
Evaluation of CAISR
The analysis company Damvad, on behalf of the Knowledge Foundation, conducted an evaluation in 2019 of the following Research Profiles:
- Center for Applied Intelligent Systems Research (CAISR) at Halmstad University
- Future Energy at Mälardalen University
- Nutrition-Gut-Brain Interactions Research Centre (NGBI) at Örebro University
- Service Innovation for Sustainable Business (SISB) at Karlstad University
For CAISR, Damvad has, among other things, drawn the following conclusions:
Added value for the partner companies: The partner companies have gained new or deeper collaborations with the academia, increased the scientific level within the company and gained increased access to materials and competence. In addition, the companies believe that the added value of collaborating with CAISR far exceeds the costs.
Staff and recruitment: CAISR has shown a development where staffing has roughly doubled during the center's active period. CAISR competes in terms of recruitment both with other universities and the industry. For example, the demand for corresponding competence is high among research-intensive vehicle manufacturers. These can often offer both qualified services and competitive salaries. At the same time, research is being conducted on autonomous vehicles at other universities in Sweden. However, in this competition, CAISR has managed to attract expertise and build up a critical mass of researchers.
Scientific publications: Researchers within CAISR have collaborated with representatives in 27 different countries in the production of scientific articles. Publications that have been produced within CAISR are cited somewhat lower than the corresponding research in Sweden and at a Nordic level. However, a higher citation impact is achieved compared to other OECD countries. 13 percent of the publications are among the 10 percent most cited in each field, and 16 percent of the publications are published in the top 10 percent of the highest ranked journals.
The report from Damvad is presented by the Knowledge Foundation in a video in Swedish External link, opens in new window. (the analysis of CAISR starts 33 minutes into the clip).
In addition to Damvad's evaluation, CAISR's management commissioned an external reviewer to evaluate CAISR’s value for the industry through interviews with the partner companies. The companies were generally satisfied with the cooperation with CAISR. No major changes were proposed regarding the direction of research or the type of activities. They were impressed by the researchers' expertise and positive attitude to collaborate with companies. Several organisations emphasised that concrete results are an important value in the collaboration with CAISR. As the researchers work with real data and systems, new services and patents have been developed.
The Knowledge Foundation's Research Profile programme
The programme aims to be an important tool in a university's ambition to profile and develop its research and education. The universities are given the opportunity to further develop a designated strategically important research area with high potential to become internationally prominent. The programme provides an opportunity for a university to establish international impact in a well-defined area, and an opportunity for partner companies to strengthen and develop new competitive advantages.
The Knowledge Foundation's support for a research profile lasts for 6–8 years and the funding from the Foundation is SEK 30–40 million. Companies must co-finance with at least as much. All funding from the Knowledge Foundation should be used for research with a clear majority of senior research time. More information is given on the Knowledge Foundation's website. External link, opens in new window.
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