UPC leads the Catalan ecosystem for research and innovation in Artificial Intelligence

The UPC is the Catalan institution that does more research and innovation in the field of Artificial Intelligence, according to the report ‘Analysis of the specialization in artificial intelligence in Catalonia’, prepared by the Generalitat de Catalunya.

In Catalonia, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC) is the entity that participates in more Artificial Intelligence projects (28) of the European program Horizon 2020 and theR+I strategy for the intelligent specialization of Catalonia (RIS3CAT), followed by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (25), a joint research center of the UPC, the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.

According to the study ‘Analysis of the specialization in artificial intelligence in Catalonia‘, Catalonia is positioned as a leading region in Artificial Intelligence in Europe, with the capacity to attract a high volume of European competitive funds, especially in innovation projects in SMEs and the application of artificial intelligence to societal challenges. The number of European projects of the Horizon 2020 program in which Catalonia participates (8.43 % out of a total of 2.704) is higher than the European average (6.55 % out of a total of 30. 699). The main thematic area is automatic learning, followed by machine vision and natural language processing.

The analysis highlights the large number of projects of innovation and application of Artificial Intelligence in the priority areas of the RIS3CAT strategy: of the 683 projects studied, 45 are in the field of AI (6.66%), focusing especially on health, industrial systems, energy and resources, sustainable mobility and cultural and experience-based industries. Many of these projects also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are potential hubs of socio-technical transformation with the potential to be replicated and scaled up.

AI knowledge ecosystem. It is estimated that in 2030 Artificial Intelligence will generate an additional $15.7 billion increase in global GDP. And the UPC, with a long experience in training and research in Artificial Intelligence, is contributing to make Catalonia a driving force in Europe in this field. The University has a knowledge and technology ecosystem made up of different research centers and groups that participate in large national and international scientific and technological projects. One of these centers is IDEAI-UPC, which is currently the largest AI center in Catalonia, with almost 60 permanent researchers and about 150 PhD students.

Some of the most relevant AI projects being developed at the UPC are the following:

  • Artificial Intelligence for the European Union (AI4EU): European project in which different groups of the University participate, together with other 60 leading research centers, and that will mark the roadmap in research, development and innovation in this field in Europe in the next ten years. It aims to make AI-based resources available to users to facilitate scientific research and innovation, to analyze future AI research needs, and to create an ethics observatory for human-centered AI. Researchers from IDEAI-UPC and the Institute of Robotics and Industrial Informatics (IRI), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the UPC.
  • The AI4EU project has recently resulted in two more initiatives funded by the European Commission: StarwAI, led by Professor Javier Vázquez, and Knowledge AI, led by Professor Miquel Sánchez Marré, both researchers at IDEAI-UPC. Both projects are aimed at improving the usability experience of this platform.
  • Cognitive Assistive Social Pet Robots for Hospitalized Children (CASPER): a project that studies the use of cognitive, assistive and social robots in the form of pet robots to reduce pain and anxiety in hospitalized children during their clinical treatments. The idea is that this type of robot pet contributes to reduce pain and anxiety in children when they undergo an intervention; increase the involvement of children, parents, and the hospital entity in stressful situations (oncology unit, recovery unit, social conflicts), and engage children in educational treatments from different perspectives (social skills with autistic children, healthy meals with anorexic children, eating recommendations and medication delivery with diabetic children).

    This initiative, in which the researcher Cecilio Angulo, from IDEAI, works, has been developed jointly with the Hospital de Sant Joan de Déu de Barcelona, La Salle-Universitat Ramon Llull and PAL Robotics.

  • Lifelong Universal Language Representation (LUNAR), an initiative to explore new methods of automatic translation of text and vision. Led by IDEAI researcher Marta Ruíz Costa-Jusà, the project studies a machine translation system that is more efficient than the current ones and offers similar qualities for majority and minority languages. The researcher has obtained a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to carry out the research. More Information.
  • DigiPatICS: project to digitize the pathology anatomy services by means of artificial vision technologies, in order to enhance networked work and improve patient care. The project, promoted by the Catalan Health Institute (ICS), is led, on behalf of the UPC, by Professor Ferran Marqués, researcher at IDEAI. The aim of DigiPatICS is to optimize the anatomopathological diagnostic process in the network of the hospitals of the Catalan Health Institute through digitization and the use of Artificial Intelligence. It includes from the management of the request for the pathological anatomy sample to the delivery of the clinical result.
  • Health Technology Network (Xartec Salut): a network formed by 47 research groups in Catalonia from 17 different institutions, among which there are groups from the UPC, the objective of which is to be a catalyst for R&D&I in the field of health technology, which promotes the exchange of knowledge and technology transfer between research groups, institutions, hospitals and companies. The idea is to promote the creation and growth of new innovative companies and to offer more efficient instruments for technology transfer with a greater economic and social impact.

    Within the framework of XarTEC SALUT, led by the Center for Research in Biomedical Engineering (CREB) and in which IDEAI also participates, the aim is to create a program for the valorization and transfer of technology in the field of health technology. The initiative includes five specific programs (rehabilitation, clinical studies/diagnosis, treatment, training and sports) that include a wide variety of technologies: materials engineering; big data analysis; eHealth; instrumentation and sensors; 2D and 3D biomedical imaging; medical robotics; medical radiophysics; simulation, serious games and gamification, among others. The intention is to become a reference incubator for early stage HealthTech projects and start-ups in Mediterranean countries.

  • Smart Autonomous Robotic Assistant Surgeon (SARAS): is focused on developing the next generation of robotic surgical systems that allow a single surgeon to perform minimally invasive robotic surgery (R-MIS) without the need for an expert assistant surgeon. The project, in which CREB researcher Alícia Casals participates, is focused on developing a surgical robotic platform, in order to increase the social and economic efficiency of a hospital and guarantee the same level of safety for patients. Thus, a solo surgery system will be created, with a pair of cooperating and autonomous robotic arms supporting the surgical instruments.
  • Looming Factory: alliance between R+D+I groups from academia and industry to facilitate and accelerate the introduction to the market of emerging technologies aligned with the needs and new industrial challenges resulting from the digital transformation: smart and connected factories, and collaborative robotics in production environments, with demonstration of these technologies in real environments.

    The Looming Factory project is coordinated by the UPC’s Center for Research in Electronic Actuation and Industrial Applications (MCIA), and aims to develop and validate in pilot plants of production systems the digital technologies of the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by the interconnection of machines and systems and the operational integration of workers with the production environment, as well as the exchange of information with logistics and distribution systems. More Information.

  • CoCoUnit: An Energy-Efficient Processing Unit for Cognitive Computing: this project studies the design of new intelligent computing systems inspired by the human brain. Led by researcher Antonio González, from the Department of Computer Architecture, the project starts from a disruptive approach: to investigate unconventional architectures, “dramatically different”, in the words of the researcher, that can offer greater energy efficiency in their performance, and at a reduced cost, in the realization of cognitive functions.

    The goal is to be inspired by how the human brain works in order to design new computing system architectures that perform cognitive functions with high energy efficiency and low cost, thus making their incorporation into all kinds of devices feasible. The project has been awarded an Advanced Grant, the highest distinction awarded by the ERC to research projects. More Information.

  • BD4OPEM H2020: project led by Mònica Aragüés, researcher at the Centre for Technological Innovation in Aesthetic Converters and Actuators (CITCEA-UPC). The project focuses on the development of a cloud-based platform (analytic toolbox) that will integrate services based on Artificial Intelligence to improve the monitoring, operation, maintenance and planning of distribution power grids.

    The strategy of the BD4OPEM project is to share and extract more value from the available data, providing new solutions to improve the management of electric networks, in an open market or public platform, where users find what they need using the services provided by different specialized companies.More Information.

On the other hand, IDEAI, together with the Centre for Image and Multimedia Technology (CITM), attached to the UPC, which has a long history in digital creativity, are the two centers that are leading the AI and Music Festival project.

Likewise, different researchers and investigators of the UPC advise the European Commission, the Catalan government and the Barcelona City Council in the field of AI.

Source: UPC leads the Catalan ecosystem for research and innovation in Artificial Intelligence in Catalonia, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 6 de juliol de 2021