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INESC TEC participates in project that encourage SMEs to adopt AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the European Commission's priorities to increase industrial production. Therefore, it has been promoting the creation of regional digital innovation hubs (DIH) to support European SMEs in their digital transformation.

19th November 2020

The AI REGIO project (Regions and DIHs alliance for AI-driven digital transformation of European Manufacturing SMEs) aims to ensure that industrial SMEs have the necessary support, while providing regional digital innovation hubs with resources and skills that companies can access.

In Portugal, the project focuses on the iMan Norte Hub, a digital innovation network launched in 2018, which aims to encourage the adoption of technologies by digitisation and robotics companies in the northern region of the country. As co-founder and co-coordinator of iMan Norte, INESC TEC will focus on improving the hub's communication infrastructure in the field of Internet of Things (IoT), through the development of AI projects by research centres and companies in the region. Moreover, INESC TEC will install this infrastructure at iiLab - Industry and Innovation laboratory.

“This pilot will show how to integrate the information received through an IoT system into production planning software, which helps adapting the planning of the factory activity in real time, considering the recent production behaviour. The main goal is to balance the production schedule in execution, taking into account current delays and failures, adjusting production needs to the available technology”, said Rafael Lírio Arrais, researcher at INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics in Industry and Intelligent Systems (CRIIS). "The connection of equipment and software to the IoT platform should lead to the significant optimisation of production planning", stated the researcher.

iiLab is one of the 30 pilot-experiments

The installation of an IoT system in iiLab is one of the 30 pilot-experiments within the scope of the AI REGIO project, whose objective is to encourage the adoption of AI, particularly in the business sector. At the level of the innovation ecosystem, AI REGIO will promote closer cooperation between European regions, to ensure that innovations can be spread by several countries. At a technological level, each digital innovation center will provide a set of digital production platforms previously developed in EU-funded projects.

“AI REGIO will ensure that SMEs have the support they need, while exploring and improving the European network of regional Digital Innovation Hubs, such as the iMAN Norte Hub, so that companies can benefit from skills and resources not available in their region”, stated César Toscano, researcher at INESC TEC’s Centre for Enterprise Systems Engineering.

At the national level, the AI REGIO project also involves UNPARALLEL Innovation, a tech-SME that is responsible for organising and structuring information related to the project's results, such as pilot-tests and the developed technological solutions. This information will be made available online through the IoT-Catalogue toolv.

“The IoT-Catalogue allows those who seek IoT solutions (end users, technological consultants, systems integrators, etc.) to get closer to those who provide and/or develop IoT technologies. It is an interactive explorer of IoT innovations, through success stories, specialised knowledge, IoT solutions and technologies, and much more”, said Bruno Almeida, Director of UNPARALLEL.

The project plans to launch two open calls (in June 2021 and March 2022), to which Portuguese companies may apply.

The project is part of the I4MS initiative, which supports SMEs in the industrial sector, through the integration of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in their businesses. It brings together 36 partners from eight countries, with INESC TEC (through CRIIS e do CESE) and UNPARALLEL as the Portuguese partners. This project is funded by the received a funding of €9.2M, within the scope of European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme - agreement number 952003.

The researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC.