The Association for Foreign Investment (AFI), the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic (AmCham) and the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TACR) today recognised the best cooperative projects conducted by companies and the research sphere last year. First place in the Cooperation of the Year competition was awarded to the Czech company TESCAN and Brno University of Technology for a project involving a holographic camera microscope using 3D technology. One-third more projects were entered in Cooperation of the Year 2013 than in the previous edition. Mainly leading industrial companies on the Czech market were represented in the competition, whereas universities in Brno were the most active in cooperating with the commercial sector. The celebratory announcement of the competition’s results took place at the Prague mayor’s residence with participation of the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Prof. RNDr. Dalibor Štys, CSc.
The Cooperation of the Year competition was organised by the AFI, AmCham and TACR for the third time this year. The purpose of the competition is to raise awareness of successful examples of the practical application of scientific findings in the business realm and to encourage such cooperation in future. “Transfer of technologies from scientific institutions to companies has been the topic of intense discussion in recent days. We are endeavouring to use every opportunity in this area in order to lower financial expectations connected with it and thus to elevate the social benefit of this activity. Besides education, technology transfer is the means by which scientific institutions are immediately beneficial to society. In this regard, it is necessary for there to be an open approach on the part of universities, research institutes and providers of funding that are willing to bear very high personal risk. I hope that in future years we will reward primarily completely new technologies that arise in the academic sphere and mature in practice with major risk,” says Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Prof. RNDr. Dalibor Štys, CSc.
“Cooperation on the part of academic facilities is often underappreciated, even though it has a number of positive effects not only for companies, but also especially for schools. Companies can use the expertise and know-how of research facilities and, conversely, schools can find a partner for effective application of technologies in the commercial sector,” says Prof. Vladimír Mařík, member of the expert jury and chairman of the Research Council of the TACR, explaining the importance of the competition.
1st place, Cooperation of the Year 2013: TESCAN and Brno University of Technology / Camera-based microscope that sees in 3D (“Multimodal Holographic Microscope”)
TESCAN, a.s., a global supplier of grid electron microscopes and related applications, and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Brno University of Technology developed a revolutionary prototype of a microscope based on camera scanning, which enables researchers to precisely gauge the localisation and trajectory of very rapidly changing examined objects – e.g. cells – in 3D. This device will find uses in biology and technical fields. The microscope’s optical system is already protected by Czech and European patents and its protection is being further expanded. The technical solution has been granted a European patent and the company is now seeking patents in the Russian and American markets. TESCAN is planning commercial use of the project’s result in 2015. Licensed production of the device will bring financial benefits as well as active cooperation between students and the commercial sector with the possibility of obtaining jobs in a globally known firm. The Experimental Bioinformatics research team at Brno University of Technology, which participated in the development of the microscope, is growing at an exponential rate.
The importance of cooperation is significant for both of these leading institutions. With the realisation of this project, TESCAN entered a new field of operation, while for Brno University of Technology the realised technology transfer again confirmed its effective cooperation with commercial partners. A significant contribution to the project was made by the Institute of Molecular Genetics, which through its experience with biotechnologies brought the development team a new outlook on the examined issue and, above all, the possibility to gain the experience of a model user. After Brno University of Technology, this institute will be the first facility where the holographic microscope prototype will be installed and used on a daily basis.
František Dostálek, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic, summarises the trends in cooperation between schools and companies: “The number of nominations in the Cooperation of the Year competition increased by one-third in comparison with last year, which indicates a favourable trend in the area of cooperation between universities, research institutes and companies leading to innovations. Furthermore, it shows that cooperating entities are inclined to build on successful projects and to thus benefit from long-term synergistic effects of cooperation – the originators of the flying laboratory, to which we awarded second place this year, also ranked in the top three in the first edition of the competition in 2010.”
“I am very pleased that a purely Czech firm won again this year. Cooperation between Czech firms and universities is a prerequisite for a prosperous industrial economy and GDP growth, and it improves awareness of top-quality Czech technologies abroad. Entrants in this year’s edition of the competition were projects from traditionally strong sectors of the Czech economy, such as mechanical engineering, the automotive industry, biotechnology and IT, and what is important is that in the evaluated projects we registered the participation of almost all major universities in the Czech Republic. Brno University of Technology confirmed its strong position in the area of applied development and, compared with last year, the participation of research institutions also greatly increased. Even though there are a number of private and public entities that exert considerable effort in the field of science and research, it is still necessary to systematically and conceptually improve cooperation,” says Kamil Blažek, chairman of the Association for Foreign Investment.
2 nd place, Cooperation of the Year 2013: První brněnská strojírna Velká Bíteš and Brno University of Technology / Flying laboratory for testing a turboprop propulsion unit (“TP 100 Turboprop-Engine Flying Laboratory”)
První brněnská strojírna Velká Bíteš, a.s., a significant producer in the areas of aviation and turbomachinery both in the Czech Republic and on the international scale, and the Aviation Institute of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, in cooperation with JIHLAVAN-airplanes, s.r.o. and Air Jihlava – service s.r.o., developed the experimental VUT 061 TURBO aircraft serving as a flying laboratory for testing the TP 100 turboprop engine. Within the project, measuring technology was used to a significant extent for gauging and recording both the engine’s operating parameters and the plane’s overall flight data. On the flying laboratory it will be possible in future to operatively test and verify newly developed engine components and modifications that increase its utility properties and thus its competitiveness and market viability. Within the context of selling the TP 100 engine, it is anticipated that the entire production volume will be intended for export, which is evident in the current interest from potential customers, both aircraft producers (organisations) and individuals who want to use the advantages of a turboprop engine in comparison with piston engines in the form of lower weight, use of readily available JET-A1 aviation fuel and sustained engine performance at higher altitudes. The first delivery of the engine was to a customer in the United States.
Significant transfer of know-how and utilised technologies occurred between the entities involved in cooperation in the area of measurement and testing as well as in the area of evaluation and interpretation of measured data. This makes it possible to expand individual specialists’ angle of view with new findings and to thus see connections in the broader context. The findings will subsequently be used in contact with customers and technical support when realising their projects. For example, První brněnská strojírna Velká Bíteš states that without the experience gained from the VUT 061 TURBO project, it would be very difficult to provide technical support to the distant customer in the United States. Companies participating in the project’s implementation are planning further intensive cooperation in undertaking experimental flights and further development of propulsion units from the TP 100 engine family. The partners are concurrently planning cooperation in the realisation and testing of other new products of První brněnská strojírna Velká Bíteš, a.s.
3 rd place, Cooperation of the Year 2013 : Doosan Škoda Power and the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň / Diagnostics for detecting dangerous states of steam turbines (“Research and development of a prototype diagnostic system for detecting and localising rubbing in steam turbines”)
The main implementer of the project was the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň; the co-implementer was Doosan Škoda Power s.r.o. The device functions as a diagnostic system that enables online monitoring of steam turbines with the purpose of detecting contact between the turbine’s rotor and stator (rubbing) and subsequent localisation of the contact point. This makes it possible to detect undesirable and often dangerous states of turbines and the reasons for such states. Introduction, installation and use of this diagnostic system are currently very pertinent in connection with construction of new production blocks and modernisation of existing steam-turbine blocks. The advanced system is unique in the world because this form of assessing, localising and detecting rubbing in the stated scope is not available in existing diagnostic systems used in turbomachinery in the Czech Republic and abroad. The project’s results have been presented at several global conferences and the prototype of the diagnostic system has been rated highly by top foreign experts. Several major global firms have expressed interest in this advanced system.
Two special prizes – the Prize of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the ICT Alliance Prize – were presented during the awards ceremony.
Prize of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic: KOVOSVIT MAS and the Czech Technical University in Prague / SW technology for increasing the precision of machining by up to 80% (“Design of technology of advanced software thermal compensation on the basis of transmission functions on an MMC 1500 portal machining centre”)
KOVOSVIT MAS, a.s., which has been involved in the production and development of machine tools for seventy years, and the Institute of Production Machines and Equipment and the Research Centre of Manufacturing Technology at the Czech Technical University in Prague designed software technology compensating heat generated by an MMC 1500 machining centre. Compared with commonly used software, production precision was increased by 80% without complicated interventions in the machine’s design. In relation to the current requirements for the precision of machine tools, it is a very inexpensive and effective way to achieve greater precision, as changes in a machine’s structural temperature can cause up to 70% of its overall production imprecision. Installation of the software increases the value of the machine and extends its service life.Deployment of this method has allowed KOVOSIT MAS to increase the selling price of its machine tools by approximately 3-5%. In addition, the project’s results are usable for other machines and types of equipment. Customers have expressed interest in the option of using this software.
The main benefit of cooperation for the Czech Technical University is rapid implementation of sophisticated technology of advanced SW thermal compensation in practice and very strong feedback from industry. For KOVOSIT, the benefit consists in acquisition of know-how in the area of increasing precision, incorporation of such know-how into its production programme and the resulting competitive advantage in the industrial sphere.
ICT Alliance Prize: Phonexia and Brno University of Technology / Automated mining of information from speech
(“Technology for mining information from speech for security and commercial applications”)
Phonexia s.r.o., which is involved in the development of software for automatic acquisition of information from recorded speech, e.g. for call centres, security agencies, media archives and the banking sector, and the BUT Speech@FlT research group of the Faculty of Information Technologies at Brno University of Technology have long been engaged in intensive cooperation leading to a new generation of technology for mining information from unstructured spontaneous speech that was not intended for computer analysis (i.e. not dictation). Automatic processing of speech requires knowledge of engineering (mathematics, statistics, machine learning, programming), humanities (lexicography, phonetics) and, to a limited extent, medicine (anatomy, physiology). The project, which won the ICT Alliance Prize, involves technology for mining information from speech for security and commercial applications. Adaptations of the technology to a customer’s acoustic channels and a solution for analysis of a call centre’s voice operation have already been delivered, and other contracts are nearing conclusion. The technology will find uses in, for example, mining information from telephone conversations and inferring business decision-making or verification of customers’ voices when providing sensitive information. The financial impacts of transferring the technology will bring both parties approximately CZK 7.6 million annually.
Cooperation with Phonexia brings Brno University of Technology close relations with customers from the real-world security and commercial environment and thus a strong position in R&D projects, as well as transfer of some activities (for example, negotiation with commercial partners, advertising) to a partner, sharing of work capacities with a partner and use of Phonexia software for educational and research purposes. For Phonexia, the benefit of cooperation consists in the latest findings from the world of science, education and the school’s material and technical background, as well as the possibility of verifying commercial technologies in academic databases.
A benefit for both parties is the presentation of “best practices” at local and international events (exhibitions, professional conferences). Thanks to the work and projects realised for partners in the security field (primarily in the Czech Republic and the United States), representatives of both entities are in active contact with the international security community.
Within the Cooperation of the Year competition, projects involving cooperation between university research teams and their counterparts at companies were evaluated for the period from 1 January 2012 to 1 June 2013 on the basis of nominations sent to the organisers. A total of 23 projects from various fields including IT, electronics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, optics, aviation, the automotive industry and mechanical engineering were entered in the competition. The winning projects were selected on the basis of the scope and impact of their results, as well as their financial volume and benefit. The course of cooperation was also one of the evaluation criteria. The competition’s jury was composed of Martin Bunček (Technology Agency of the Czech Republic), Jaroslav Doležal (Honeywell), Oldřich Hlavička (Ministry of Industry and Trade), Vít Kavan (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport), Jiří Krechl (CzechInvest), Aleš Laciok (ČEZ), Vladimír Mařík (Czech Technical University and CertiCon), Petr Maršík (Ministry of Industry and Trade), Jan Slovák (Masaryk University), Jan Všianský (42angels) and Zbyněk Pardubský (Huawei).
The Cooperation of the Year Project is organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Prague and the Association for Foreign Investment in cooperation with the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the mayor of Prague, Tomáš Hudeček. The project’s partners are Erste Corporate Banking, Huawei, ICT Alliance, HP and 3M. Supporting partners are AC&C Public Relations, CzechInvest, Česká inovace, South Moravian Innovation Centre and Rozvojové projekty Praha. The media partners of the project are Mladá fronta E15 and Profit.