FZI Research Center for Information Technology

Photo Credits: FZI Research Center for Information Technology

In January 2021, the FZI Research Center for Information Technology was selected as one of the four finalists of the 2020 DIHNET Champions Challenge. This initiative developed by DIHNET Network aims at identifying good practice cases of mature DIHs.

We spoke with Dr. Frauke Goll , Innovation Manager, who told us a bit more about the DIH, its history and activities and how they are supporting the industry.

Tell us a bit about the hub and how it started

At the heart of the IT region Karlsruhe, the FZI Research Center for Information Technology created the FZI House of Living Labs in 2012 as a basis for collaboration and interdisciplinary research especially with Small and Medium sized Enterprises.
In this innovative research environment on two floors with more than 2000 sqm, new informatic applications are developed, tested and made ready for the market by researchers of the FZI together with partners from economy, science and society. The FZI House of Living Labs supports their application-oriented research, evaluation and development with the latest technical equipment, such as mobile and stationary information and communication technologies as well as vehicles, various devices and building technologies. Together with our regional partners, like CyberForum e.V., Karlsruher Institute for Technology (KIT), Fraunhofer IOSB, TechnologyRegion Karlsruhe, City of Karlsruhe and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, we built up a strong innovation ecosystem. Awarded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in 2017, we established together with our partners the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence. This Digital Hub is coordinated by the DIZ I Digital Innovation Centre, a joint venture from FZI and CyberForum, and its goal is to bring AI methods and technologies into use. Since 2019 the Digital Hub is supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing Baden-Wuerttemberg.
We started the development of the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence in 2017 by carrying out the following activities that continue until today:

  1. Establishing a one-stop-shop for applied AI in the region through the Hub-Management
  2. Economy and Innovation: Support for Start-ups and SMEs as well as development of new business models
  3. Knowledge- and technology transfer in Applied AI
  4. Networking and positioning (regional, national and international)

 

Watch the short interview with Frauke and keep reading for a more in-depth interview.

 

Could you describe your DIH ecosystem and its development policy?

Our ecosystem includes strong partners from business, science and education. We are also highly involved in political initiatives on regional and national level, like the Initiative Economy 4.0 and AI4Germany. Additionally, we are highly interested in competence and knowledge exchange with partners outside our region. For this we have several cooperation e.g. with Hub France AI, Flandern AI, Grand Est Region, Navarro Region, AI Association Hungary.

What specific services does your DIH offer?

We started the DIH development in the FZI House of Living Labs with four pillars: Research and Development, Demonstration and Trainings, Cooperation and Alliances as well as Networking and Events.

Today within the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Artificial Intelligence we offer different services related to the 4 main areas of EDIH service support to SMEs:

  • Test before invest: Demonstration and Testing
  • Facilities (like the FZI House of Living Labs, the Test Area Autonomous Driving Baden-Wuerttemberg, Real laboratory “Smart East” and the Karlsruhe Research
    Factory), Expert Circles, Working Groups, …
  • Skills & Training: Training courses, Internships, Deep Dives
    Innovation and networking ecosystem: Access to digital economy, events, workshops, networking, …
  • Support and access to finance: Start-up programs and AI start-ups

Can you provide some figures on the companies supported by your DIH? How many companies have been accompanied by the DIH, what companies do you usually support?

Karlsruhe is one of the leading locations in information and communication technologies in Europe. Based on a long tradition, today there are approximately 4.400 IT-Companies, more than 10.000 Computer Science Students, more than 30 AI-Start-ups and 26 Research and Development facilities.

The FZI House of Living Labs includes 8 Livings Labs on two floors on more than 2.000 sqm. In total we run over 180 regional, national and European Research Projects and had more than 600 (partly virtual) visits from industry, politics, science and the public. We built up an Open Innovation Network and Community as well as two Competence Centers, one for AI-Engineering and one for IT Security.

The Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence includes 14 Partners as well as 58 Associates and addresses mainly small and medium sized enterprises with its activities.

Can you provide a practical example of a case you supported?
We have lots of different examples. In our opinion best practices and use cases are of great interest in the whole process and therefore you can find some of our
AI-examples on our website: https://digitalhub-ai.de/en/dehub-karlsruhe.

What is your vision of DIHs development in Europe?

In our opinion DIHs help to attract SMEs locally and this is important for the overall
economic development. On European level it is necessary to learn from each other and to support each other by being a part of a broader community, understanding our differences and similarities. It is of great interest to exchange knowledge and experience to foster innovation and strengthen the European competitiveness. Therefore, the upcoming efforts by the European Commission, like the EDIH-Network, as well as the already made ones, like the DIHnet, are quite remarkable and necessary. Within the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence we already started our European development through different research projects, networking activities and bilateral collaboration. Additionally we strengthen our German-French cooperation with a shared networking project in Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing Baden-Wuerttemberg.

What could be the added value of Pan-European collaboration?

The added value of Pan-European collaboration lies within the access to and transfer of knowledge and resources. Necessary for this is to offer complementary services and activities, so that needed capabilities can be found within the network. Additionally, it is also important to bring together experts from all over Europe to combine their knowledge in the global technology race as well as to foster the
digitalisation in the public sector.

Did you receive any EU funds and, if so, how did you employ them?

In the beginning the FZI House of Living Labs was funded by the European Union – European Regional Development Fund and by the Ministry of Finance and Economy Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you? In which way?

Yes. As most other institutions we first had to postpone different activities, but we changed our formats and strategy very quickly. Thus, we started very early with virtual meetups and events. Being one year in the pandemic situation now you can book virtual guided tours through our demonstration sides today, you can join virtual meetings and events and we are able to enlarge our network and ecosystem with partners all over Europe more easily. E.g. in December our 2nd AIxIA Conference, a joint conference between Hub France IA and the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence, took place only virtually with over 500 Attendees and in February our yearly FZI Open House opened the doors of the FZI House of Living Labs virtually for more than 400 Attendees.

Are you a candidate EDIH and if so, what are your expectations from the future EDIH?

Yes, and we think that our EDIH Artificial Intelligence and CyberSecurity based on the Digital Hub Karlsruhe Applied Artificial Intelligence together with the IT Security Region Karlsruhe is well prepared and willing to join the EDIH network. For us this is a perfect development of our activities on the next level and it will strengthen and enlarge our collaborations on regional and European level. We also believe we can contribute with our strong expertise and competences to the EDIH network and the whole European Innovation Ecosystem.

 

Interview by Lucie Milcent, DIHNET