What is IT4Innovations
IT4Innovations is a unique project the aim of which is to build a national Centre of Excellence in the field of information technologies. The centre will enable strengthening concentration of a wide range of scientific disciplines relating to information technologies and thus achieve development in respective spheres.
Part of the project is acquisition of a high-performance supercomputer that is planned to be put into operation in 2014, in which time it is supposed to rank among the top 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world.
The project is implemented by five subjects: VSB - Technical University of Ostrava, University of Ostrava in Ostrava, Silesian University in Opava, Brno University of Technology and Institute of Geonics AS CR.
IT4Innovation Centre of Excellence is intended as a research centre that combines academic research with the research meeting needs of application sphere. The core activity of the centre will be computing within three mutually interlinked key areas of activity:
- IT4People (Information for People) – focusing on improving the quality of life in society through modern information technologies.
- SC4Industry (Supercomputing for Industry) – focusing on supercomputing in solving industry tasks, modelling in the field of natural sciences and nanotechnologies (shape optimization, materials design, biomechanical simulations, etc.).
- Theory4IT (Theory for Information Technology) - focusing on basic research, particularly on the development of new and non-traditional computing methods (knowledge mining, ant colony theory).
The following figure presents expected impact of IT4Innovations CE research:
Main areas of centre’s activity
IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence will employ about 200 highly qualified researchers. Specialists from other parts of the Czech Republic and the whole world will be recruited throughout the whole period of the centre’s start-up. Project costs are at CZK 1.8 billion for the years 2010 – 2015, provided by the Operational Programme ‘Research and Development for Innovations’ and funded by 85% from EU structural funds (European Regional Development Fund) and by 15% by the Czech State Budget. The project entered its implementation phase on July 1, 2011 after approval of the European Commission and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, of the Czech Republic.
The project to establish the IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence involves the area defined in the Czech Republic’s long-term strategy for the development of science and research as the development of the information society. The partner institutions implementing this joint project can draw on a rich research and scientific background in computer science, information technologies and computational mathematics. In addition to these key fields – which are at the core of the planned Centre of Excellence – other modern emerging scientific disciplines are currently undergoing rapid development: mechatronics, embedded systems, biomedical engineering, safety engineering and nanotechnology. These disciplines have become an integral part of long-term research programmes, not only in basic research, but also in the practical application sphere. All of these technologies – whether established or emerging – share one key common denominator: the efficient use of high-performance computing technology and supercomputer methods. It is evident that the development of new, non-traditional computation methods and their implementation in sophisticated software systems represents a key factor in the development of all of the above-mentioned scientific disciplines. This need to pool resources and create a research infrastructure focused on developing computation methods (IT as the subject of research) – including the search for ways of efficient application (IT as a means in research) – forms the basis of the IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence project.
Benefits of IT4Innovations
One of the key goals of the Centre of Excellence is the unification of a wide range of fields of knowledge and science around the central theme of information technologies, thus not only achieving developments in informatics and computational mathematics as such, but supporting the development of all the fields involved.
The IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence project represents a fundamental opportunity to strengthen the competitiveness not only of the involved regions, but of the Czech Republic as a whole. The potential offered by the Centre lies in its unique combination of several mutually complimentary factors: the existence of a base for high-quality researchers offering international experience and contacts; the creation of products and services to meet current and future needs in the application sphere, whether public or private; and the determination of Moravian-Silesian and South Moravian regions’ representatives to create an internationally renowned centre of excellence focusing on IT – a highly progressive field of knowledge.
In recent years, the Moravian-Silesian Region has increasingly been perceived as a region offering a strong base in information technologies (reflected in the influx of investors such as Tieto, Bang & Olufsen, ASUS etc.). The IT4Innovations project will enable this base to develop fully within a region where information technologies are and will remain one of the main pillars of future continued economic growth. The region’s future – just like that of most other EU regions – will depend on its ability to become an attractive location for investments with higher added value. The building-up of the IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence represents a clear response to this challenge.
South Moravian Region is in the framework of the Czech Republic on a long-term perspective considered to be a region strongly supporting the development of innovative entrepreneurship, which is to a considerable extent connected with exploitation of information technologies. This region succeeded in attracting a significant amount of important players in the field of advanced usage of electrical engineering and IT – as examples can serve e.g. establishment of Honeywell development centre, or presence of Microsoft laboratories. Participation of partners from the South Moravian Region thus brings not only expansion of territorial field of activity, but also the top capacities from the research field, as well as long-term links to clients from application sphere.
The uniqueness of this Centre of Excellence lies in the high degree of diversification among the potential clients of the research and development activities generated by the Centre. Future clients from the private sector will range from small businesses to large corporations operating in various sectors: IT, mechanical engineering, automotive industry, construction, pharmaceuticals, etc. Examples of applications include commercial software packages, new embedded control systems, modelling of nanosensors, shape optimization, and many others. An equally important consumer of the Centre’s research & development results will be the public sector, especially with regard to the modelling and simulation of crisis situations. In this connection it must be emphasized that these solutions will not only lead to considerable cost savings for the public sector (by avoiding potential negative effects), but will also contribute to significant social effects manifested in increased quality of life (saving human lives, improving traffic flows, etc.). The project will also lead to a deeper interconnection and cooperation between universities and the application sphere – which will bring more rapid and more frequent technology transfers (and an increased number of spin-off companies).
The IT4Innovations CE project will lead to a significant concentration of research capacities in information technologies. Under one roof, the Centre will bring together a range of research teams consisting of experts up to now (with only a few exceptions) working separately as part of the individual members of the consortium. Another aspect that should be emphasized is the synergic effect of cooperation among research workers from various fields (using SC4Industry within IT4People, etc.). The project will also create approximately 110-120 new jobs, of which 100 will be on full-time contracts – further accentuating the formation of a critical mass. The Centre of Excellence will attract researchers who do not work directly at the IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence, but will become involved in other forms of cooperation. The Centre of Excellence will place particular emphasis on the training and professional development of young researchers, with doctoral students or post-doctoral staff forming around 50% of the total research team (200 staff in total). The clear vision of the IT4Innovations Centre of Excellence, its solid foundations for cooperation with the application sphere and international partners, and above all the future opportunities for the use of IT in most areas of economic and social development – all of these factors combine to create excellent conditions enabling the Centre of Excellence to win an international reputation on the European and global level.
The main benefit of the IT4Innovations project is its creation of a unique structure with both national and international significance, focusing on key areas of science and research such as the development of the information society, the development of embedded systems, innovative medicine and nanotechnologies – and of course information technologies themselves. Additionally, the IT4Innovations project represents an exceptional synergy of scientific, research and development capacities in computer science and computational mathematics, with the goal of stimulating the development of a wide range of modern and progressive technologies. The establishment of this Centre of Excellence creates increased demand for new, sophisticated services which cannot be created or implemented without the existence of a research infrastructure of national importance. In this way, we are creating a base for the closer interconnection of basic and applied research, with a clearly specified impact on innovations.