5G Interdisciplinary Innovation Lab bringing together students of technology, natural sciences and economics

Authors: Jana Vitvarova, Lenka Koskova Triskova (Technical University in Liberec)

5G Interdisciplinary Innovation Lab (5GIIL) fosters collaboration among students across diverse fields including economics, technical disciplines, and application domains with a strong emphasize in eHealth. These students come together in teams to collectively create and prepare market-driven solutions that embrace innovation in the 5G and beyond. This best practice draws inspiration from hackathons. However, unlike hackathons, the activities take place over a longer period of time so that students have more time to think about the solution, and it is possible to integrate 5GIIL for eHealth into their regular courses.

In the preparation phase, once suitable courses and students from different disciplines have been selected, there are two main activities:

a) obtain application domain specific challenges from stakeholders from the eHealth sector,
b) form a team of expert mentors from both academia and industry/business who possess the necessary expertise to guide students across all three aspects of their work: domain knowledge, technical skills, and economic and entrepreneurial understanding. 

In the realisation phase, the 5GIIL for eHealth follows the steps below. The activities alternate between instructor-led workshops providing the necessary context for the current step and subsequent independent teamwork. Teams maintain regular contact with mentors and can consult with them about their work at each step.

These steps are

1st Challenges. Presentation of challenges to students and facilitation of teams’ formations. Teams assignment: Choose a challenge and form a multidisciplinary team. 

2nd Ideation. Workshop on ideation techniques. Teams assignment: Suggest possible solutions. 

3rd Prototyping. Workshop on prototyping methods. Team assignment: Develop a prototype solution.

4th Validation. Workshop on validation methods. Teams assignment: Validate the proposed solution.

5th Pitch (to investors). Workshop on how to make a pitch. Teams assignment: Make the best pitch.

6th Retrospective/Feedback. Workshop on retrospective methods. Teams assignment: Make the retrospective and get feedback on your work/pitch.

The 5GIIL for eHealth is meant to be an integral part of specific student’s courses, so it is advisable to reward students for participating in the lab by earning part of the credits from their course. Working in the 5GIIL for eHealth, students develop entrepreneurial and project management skills and strengthen interdisciplinary links that are otherwise difficult to acquire during their studies. They learn by sharing their knowledge. Engineering students bring knowledge of technology, development and production methods. Domain students bring knowledge of the details and needs of the eHealth industry. Economics students bring knowledge of business and marketing principles. Project-based approach, real-life challenges and expert mentorship allow students to work directly with the eHealth industry, gain practical experience and think about the impact their work can have in real-world contexts.

The application of 5G may catalyse the convergence of other modern technologies like AI, IoT, blockchain, virtual reality, and edge computing. By integrating these technologies with 5G, innovators can create ground-breaking solutions with enhanced capabilities and transformative potential.

The pilot 5GIIL for 5G/Digital Health took place in 2023 at the Technical University of Liberec with the support of the EIT HEI Initiative and the Skills2Scale project.

Promotion of innovation and the establishment of startups involving Beyond 5G technology

Author: Anna Felstan

The Startup Center of Uzhhorod National University (UzhNU), a State Higher Educational Institution, efficiently conducts initiatives to promote innovative education among its students and researchers, as well as government and business representatives, contributing to the development of the university’s and the Zakarpattia region’s overall innovation potential.

The primary objectives of the center encompass the comprehensive development of its target audience by providing advanced knowledge in organizing innovative businesses and managing startup projects, offering qualified assistance in intellectual property rights protection, invention registration, utility models, and industrial designs, while also facilitating the commercialization of scientific developments.

The UzhNU Startup Center played a pivotal role as one of the organizers of a workshop held on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, for government, education, science, and business stakeholders. The event was aimed at introducing cutting-edge technological solutions, promoting partnerships between the university and external collaborators to advance innovations in Beyond 5G technology, accelerating the development and commercialization of innovations and student-led businesses, and enhancing the quality of innovation and entrepreneurial education.

Ivan Myronyuk, vice-rector for scientific work of UzhNU

Ivan Myronyuk, vice-rector for scientific work of UzhNU

Oksana Mulesa, Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor of the Department of Software Systems of the Faculty of Information Technologies

Oksana Mulesa, Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor of the Department of Software Systems of the Faculty of Information Technologies

Representatives from government, education, science, and business in the Zakarpattia region participated in the workshop to discuss the implementation of Beyond 5G technologies across various sectors, including entrepreneurship. Among the event attendees were the Digital Development Office, the Department of Strategic Communications, and representatives from various companies and institutions, including LLC “Management Park Industrial Park Uzhhorod,” LLC “Zakarpatenerezbut,” LLC “Fresh Plants,” the Research and Development Institute of Molecular Microbiology and Mucosal Immunology at UzhNU, LLC “Science Park of Uzhhorod National University,” a representative from the mobile communications company PJSC “Kyivstar,” the Department of the A.M. Pidhornyi Institute of Machine Building of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and LLC “Marine Design Engineering.”

In October 2023, the Startup Center of Uzhhorod National University, a State Higher Educational Institution, is organizing a startup project competition (https://www.uzhnu.edu.ua/en/news/Invitation-to-participate-in-the-competition-Startup—UzhNU-Inn.htm) with the aim of fostering innovation and entrepreneurial activity among students and young researchers. The competition also seeks to establish informational, organizational, educational, and technical support for students, postgraduates, and young scholars who aspire to implement their innovative ideas in production by effectively leveraging modern IT technologies. Additionally, it aims to implement networks and programs beyond 5G in various fields to contribute to Ukraine’s future economic development. 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Vertical Applications’ Trials Leveraging Advanced 5G Facilities

5G!Drones, an EU H2020 Project, aimed to trial several Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) use-cases covering eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC 5G services, and validated 5G KPIs for supporting such challenging use-cases

The project drove the UAV verticals and 5G networks to a win-win position, on one hand by showing that 5G was able to guarantee UAV vertical KPIs, and on the other hand by demonstrating that 5G could support challenging use-cases that put pressure on network resources, such as low-latency and reliable communication, massive numbers of connections, and high bandwidth requirements, simultaneously. 5G!DRONES built on top of the 5G facilities provided by the ICT-17 projects and a number of support sites while identifying and developing the missing components to trial UAV use-cases.

The project featured Network Slicing as the key component to simultaneously run the three types of UAV services on the same 5G infrastructure (including the RAN, back/fronthaul, Core), demonstrating that each UAV application ran independently and did not affect the performance of other UAV applications, while covering different 5G services. While considering verticals as the main users of 5G!Drones, the project built a software layer to automate the run of trials that exposed a high-level API to request the execution of a trial according to the scenario defined by the vertical, while enforcing the trial’s scenario using the API exposed by the 5G facility, as well as the 5G!Drones enablers API deployed at the facility. Thus, 5G!Drones enabled abstracting all the low-level details to run the trials for a vertical and aimed at validating 5G KPIs to support several UAV use-cases via trials using a 5G shared infrastructure, showing that 5G supported the performance requirements of UAVs with several simultaneous UAV applications with different characteristics (eMBB, uRLLC, and mMTC). Using the obtained results, 5G!DRONES allowed the UAV association to make recommendations for further improvements on 5G.

The overall and ultimate objective of 5G!Drones was to design, implement, and run trials of UAV use cases on top of a 5G infrastructure provided by ICT-17 and other complementary facilities, addressing contemporary 5G challenges.

Trials at Municipality of Egaleo Stadium (Athens), Greece, 5-7 September 2022

The final trials of the project in Athens platform coordinated by NCSRD and took place on 5th – 7th September 2022. The trials technically supported by the following partners NCSRD, COS, INF, MoE, HEP, DRR, FRQ, UML and CAF realising the use case related to coverage extension of the 5G network utilizing a WiFi-6 hotspot 5G modem which was lifted-off by an automatically flying drone. The event was successful and the successful completion of the trials gave the green light to proceed to the showcasing event on 8th September. It is worth mentioning that the trials were supported by a 5G Van provided by COS in order to offer a pure quality 5G network for the needs of the trials.

SINCO accelerates the construction, testing, and development of service prototypes

Explore the dynamic intersection of innovation and practicality at The Service Innovation Corner (SINCO), the service prototyping laboratory located within the University of Lapland’s Faculty of Arts and Design, Finland. Functionally divided into five categories, SINCO redefines service

To create a prototyping lab for service and interaction design at the University of Lapland, the lab was set up as a component of the co-naming SINCO project, funded by the European Regional Development. As a facility for service design practice, SINCO is a laboratory idea comprising an environment and a collection of equipment appropriate for service prototype and interaction design.  The laboratory is a space that combines elements of a showroom, theater, craft studio, and a contemporary meeting room. It is a setting where you are empowered to take any action necessary to concretize and test experiences. SINCO provides tools for concretizing whole user experiences, in contrast to traditional mockup workshops often employed in industrial design.

The SINCO laboratory is functionally divided into five categories: Servicescape Simulation, Service Stage, Digital Touchpoint Toolkit, Rough Mock-up Crafting, and Teamwork & Documentation Tools. 

SINCO allows for the speedy construction, testing, and development of service prototypes. The prototypes are quick and simple to construct and vary since they are heavily reliant on digital prototyping material, such as images, videos, and recorded sounds. This fosters the co-creational ethos of service design, where anybody may build on the ideas of others, and is perfect for hands-on service development, as new ideas are developed while testing current prototypes.

Because of SINCO laboratory’s hands-on expertise with service prototypes, the client company’s R&D employees are now more closely involved in service development. As a result, suggested customer experiences and service journeys provide greater context for assessing and inventing new solutions. Involving company employees in service prototyping by enacting, analyzing, or constructing service journeys has given them the ability to assess the service experience from the user’s perspective rather than from an outsider’s perspective.

SINCO has worked closely with the following companies on service prototypes: Lapin Kansa (local daily newspaper), Ranua Zoo (Lapland’s wildlife park), and KL-Kopio (digital printing company). The close collaboration with companies has shown how service prototyping approaches and the SINCO laboratory were employed at various stages of the service design process, as well as how this improved design thinking in the companies.

Augmenta, a success story: Transforming Agriculture with Innovative Technology

Author: Michail Mandamadiotis

In 2016, Augmenta Technologies emerged as a tech startup with a vision – to revolutionize agriculture by simplifying farm operations and enabling farmers to achieve more with fewer resources. Co-founders Dimitris (Jim) Evangelopoulos and George Varvarelis embarked on a mission to develop cutting-edge solutions, combining their backgrounds in electronics and farming.

Their endeavor led to the creation of the Augmenta System, a pioneering real-time camera and artificial intelligence (AI)-based variable rate application (VRA) hardware platform. This groundbreaking technology can be retrofitted onto pre-owned farming equipment and comes equipped with a comprehensive suite of operational analytics, reporting tools, fleet management capabilities, and more accessible through the Augmenta Web Portal. The result? Unprecedented efficiency and simplicity for farmers.

Not all crops in the same field have the same nutrient requirements due to field variabilities such as soil properties, sunlight exposure, water accessibility etc. N-VRA is the process of applying different rates of Nitrogen to meet those needs while fertilizing crops in a field.

At the heart of their innovation is the Augmenta Field Analyzer, a seamless plug-and-play retrofit system that attaches to the roof of standard tractors or self-propelled spreaders/sprayers. This versatile system employs ISOBUS and OEM-specific protocols to manage VRA machinery, utilizing built-in GPS for precise location tracking. A cellular network connection ensures cloud connectivity. The package also includes a wireless Augmenta Tablet for in-cabin operator control and the Augmenta Web Portal for operational monitoring, analytics, financial reporting, and record-keeping.

Field analysis
Augmenta Field Analyzer

Augmenta set out to prove that optimization in farming is both achievable and sustainable, regardless of the size of the operation. As a startup, they successfully secured over $11 million in venture capital funding, enabling them to bring precision automation to farmers. Their journey took a significant turn in 2023 when Augmenta was acquired by CNH Industrial, for 110M.

Today, the Augmenta team collaborates closely with Raven to develop Sense & Act solutions that empower farmers globally. The Augmenta Field Analyzer has demonstrated to farmers that a simpler and more efficient path to their goals is within reach. Now available in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), North and South America, as well as Australia, this technology is delivering tangible results to farmers worldwide.

Augmenta collaborates tightly with farmers

Augmenta’s synergy with the innovative tech solutions from the Raven team promises to expand the reach of their precision agriculture solutions, benefiting farmers on a global scale. Together, they are leading the way in making sustainable, efficient, and profitable farming a reality.

The role of universities as innovation agents. A round table of representatives from Valencia

Author: Alejandro Fornés

As part of the activities of the EIT HEI Skills2Scale project, the Polytechnic University of València (UPV) hosted in the past 28th of June a round table in which panellists from different sectors gathered together to share their ideas about the actual model and the role of universities as innovation agent, specifically in the field of deep tech, 5G and beyond. Partners of the project also took part in the talks.

Current entrepreneurship ecosystem

In the first panel, representatives from the UPV (Telecommunication school, Innovation and Knowledge transfer office, IDEAS entrepreneurial area, Master of telecommunication and Spontaneous generation area) depicted and discussed about the current entrepreneurship ecosystem and the model for transferring innovations stemming from the university to the market. The current model is bottom-up, with ideas and innovations coming from students, research centres and academic staff, which can be the base of future start-ups and spin-offs, supported by the entrepreneurial services from the university.

Some members of the university itself were not aware of the plethora of entrepreneurship services that the university provides, an issue shared also by the other present entities regardless of their sector and size. Representatives agreed that a long-term structure and communication strategy, continuously updated, is needed to fully exploit the possibilities of collaboration. This is not trivial and should be tailored per entity, regardless of their size, and dedicated agents might be needed for internal communication.

Graduates from technical universities are technically well-qualified, still, they lack of enough expertise to move to the business arena without support. Hence, although there was quorum in the success of “producing” CTOs, different opinions raised with respect to the role of the university in forming CEOs, currently being an optional or extracurricular formation. “Is the university prepared to form CEOs? Are professors, in general with little business experience, the right professionals to give such kind of formation? CEOs ‘are’ or can be formed?” Although some voices expressed that the current model is good enough and graduates are prepared for the market, other opinions aligned with the view that they need time, live experiences and, to some extent, some natural talent, to be successful as CEOs.

Coming back to the creation of start-ups and spin-offs, some representatives exposed that giving entrepreneurial graduates access to mentoring and consultancy activities can be enough to complement their business skills. However, this was questioned from the private sector, especially in cases that there is an external investor. The convenience of including the figure of professional CEOs was debated, as they can support emerging businesses and making them sustainable thanks to their knowledge of the market, experience and soft skills. In such case, CEOs need to be motivated, and thus should have a share of the company.

Policy makers, innovation agents and 5G businesses.

The second panel was formed by policy makers, innovation agents, and 5G businesses (start-up and telco operator). Continuing with the previous topic, companies are not expecting that technical graduates have high CEO capacities, but rather that they know the basics of how real companies work (budgets, formalities, work ethics, etc.) and possess a set of soft skills related, for example, to express ideas and talk in public. Above all, they value their adaptability and willingness to learn, especially in the changing technological arena. One key concept that raised was “professional itineraries”. As individuals, people should understand what they want to become and have and look for according formation or experiences.

On the other hand, policy makers and innovation agents, apart from soft skills, miss advanced formation in regulations and standards, requirements formalization, and social aspects. Thus, they tend to incorporate more mature experts rather than graduates. In contrast to companies, in some areas of the public sector there has been spotted some lack of competences in management. Some talent plans are being promoted to enhance the management skills of technical people.

Funding

Finally, funding and regulation aspects were discussed. Currently, it is easier to access European than Spanish funding, which also has a higher bureaucratic effort. Besides, everyone agreed that regulation and control are needed, as they differentiate Europe from other regions (in rights and ethics). Still, representatives from the private sector stated that strict regulation is a burden, and can cost significant money if it changes continuously. Hence, it was agreed that a better structure and a more fluid public-private communication is required.

The Skills2Scale partners took an active role in the discussions, sharing their opinions. In the following events, to be held in Rovaniemi, Liberec and Athens, a deeper look into these regions will be analyzed. The final reports of these events will be released in November 2023 and July 2024 in the project web (https://skills2scale.eu/dissemination/deliverables/).

NEW 5G private network at Technical University in Liberec – unique Open Core & Ran solution for various industrial applications