Aarhus University will boost digital understanding

Progress in electronic technologies during the last five decades has fundamentally changed society on a global scale, and has been of radical importance for industry and business. The digital ‘revolution’ is in full swing, and will only escalate in the coming years. Denmark is in a good position at the front and, with the establishment of a strategic research centre, Aarhus University will now bring together a number of internationally leading groups of researchers to secure the Danish foothold with society and business on the way to the future. The Aarhus University Centre for Digitalisation, Big Data and Data Analytics (DIGIT) opens on 27 September in Aarhus.

2017.09.27 | Rasmus Rørbæk

Reality is not what it was. Aarhus University is now heading for digital horizons with a strategic research centre aimed at creating new recognitions and knowledge about important aspects of the digital reality of the future.

Reality is not what it was. The spread of digital services is increasing rapidly, and is only accelerating because computer performance and capacity have multiplied significantly in the space of a few years, and prices for a single unit have correspondingly dropped. Our modern global society is based to a far greater degree on being able to interact with our surroundings and hand over a significant number of tasks to electronic and mechanical technologies. The world has become a digitally enhanced place in which to live.

Digitalisation is a key element in all global challenges. With its opportunities and threats, the digitalisation trend has been the focal point of research and development for a number of years. The more we understand, however, the greater the need for strong knowledge platforms for creating research results that can convert real innovations and solutions resulting in growth and development.

Aarhus University is now setting up DIGIT – a new research centre for digitalisation, big data and data analytics. The centre will carry out excellent and interdisciplinary research in a number of fields that are of crucial importance for the worldwide digital transformation of society. DIGIT is built up around highly recognised research groups, and the aim is to create a leading research centre – in both a Danish and an international context – that can build on the digital position of strength existing in Denmark.

“Denmark and the rest of the world are facing a new industrial revolution, and it is developing rapidly. While it might sound violent, it’s essential to bear in mind that new technologies and increased digitalisation open up new opportunities for companies and society via more sustainable development and improved welfare.
New digital solutions are the focal point for DIGIT – the strategic research centre that has a clear ambition to be a world leader in research and knowledge regarding digitalisation technologies. Denmark has been a digital pioneer country for many years, and Aarhus University has positions of strength with world-class research groups. In collaboration with society and industry, DIGIT will now be able to further support the competitiveness of the business sector, and the digital transformation will be strengthened for the benefit of Denmark’s continued growth and prosperity,” says Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, Science and Technology. He initiated the setting up of a number of interdisciplinary research centres at Aarhus University in socially important areas.

Platforms provide strength
The digital revolution is already well under way, and examples of disruption of services and business models can be seen in several places as a result of new technological opportunities. These opportunities mean that consumers of the future will have completely different expectations to products and services, and they will expect smart products. Our environment is to a greater degree part of a digital ecosystem that can integrate with other products, and products that can provide more and better customised services via data collection and analysis in ‘the cloud’.

From a global perspective, a considerable number of digital disciplines and technologies are the driving forces of development, and a wide range of them will now be gathered together at DIGIT. Many projects and research groups will now join together here, and carry out more work on the development opportunities demonstrated in recent years. In this way, DIGIT will utilise synergy effects between the respective research expertise at the departments, and combine basic research and applied research with a focus on key areas in the field of digitalisation.

“DIGIT covers a wide area. There’s a good reason that digitalisation will become part of our lives to an increasing extent – not only at home, but also at the workplace and in public. Technologies will be introduced that can automatically recognise different types of objects and automatically optimise industrial processes, autonomous cars and advanced robots. They will gain a more secure footing in our everyday lives and society – and no doubt before most of us think it’s possible. Development is going ahead strongly – and it’s happening now.
It will require a knack to adapt to the new realities, as well as ensuring ongoing focus on optimal conditions for exploiting opportunities in disruption and development when we step into the digital future together. DIGIT will contribute to building up a wider and deeper research-related strength in digitalisation fields relevant to society and industry. In close collaboration with industrial partners and other commercial players, the centre will work on developing digitalisation technologies and new, or improved, smart products and services,” explains Professor Peter Gorm Larsen, Department of Engineering, who is the director of the new research centre.

DIGIT will work within different stages of technology readiness levels (TRLs). This means being capable of accommodating deep insights from basic research in applied research, where new technology is developed and implemented in interaction with industrial and other partners. In addition, the next generation of researchers must be considered in the work by means of a number of teaching initiatives.

Connecting the digital threads
Dispersing the digital threads is not necessarily a bad thing. Not even when it means that the many threads make up the entire picture of a company’s digital requirements and business foundation, for example. The threads can be used to weave a solid tapestry that can last for many years, provided they are put together the right way.
Since it was founded in 1988, Mjølner Informatics – the Aarhus IT company that designs and develops software solutions mainly for industrial companies – has created many highly specialised workplaces. It has constantly been an active player in the entire IT branch, as well as in education and research debates. In 2015, Mjølner Informatics was named the IT Growth Comet of the Year by Computerworld, and the company was presented with the IT Award 2016 at the IT Forum’s annual conference in Aarhus. Mjølner Informatics welcomes the new research centre.

“The digital transformation is in full swing, and we have a good starting point in Denmark to seize the opportunities and exploit our digital positions of strength. At Mjølner Informatics, we’re experiencing increasing demand for the services we offer – and thereby an increasing need for close connections with the latest research and promising talents to support our continued growth in the company.
Last spring, I concluded my work in the Digital Growth Panel along with a number of Denmark’s skilled IT managers and decision-makers. Our work involved analysing trends and providing the government with recommendations. The thirty-three recommendations are divided into four areas that can provide Danish society with the best possible framework for entering into the new digital reality. The four areas are digital competency for all, an attractive digital growth environment, a proactive framework for digitalisation, and digital responsibility and enthusiasm. With the DIGIT research centre, Aarhus University is well on the way to supporting the transformation we’re facing, and I look forward to collaborating with the new centre,” says CEO Brian Gottorp Jeppesen, Mjølner Informatics.

DIGIT officially opens on 27 September at 14:30. See more information about the opening here.

Read more about DIGIT on the centre’s website here.

For more information, please contact
Professor Peter Gorm Larsen
Department of Engineering
Aarhus University
+45 4189 3260
pgl@eng.au.dk

Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen
Science and Technology
Aarhus University
dean.scitech@au.dk

Facts
DIGIT is based on interdisciplinary collaboration between three departments: the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Computer Science, and the Department of Engineering. The three departments work together to raise research to the absolute world elite in fields such as:

- Smart products/services

- Cyber-physical systems

- Machine learning

- Big data analytics

- Internet of things

- Cyber security

- Cyber Security 

AU Engineering