After two and a half years of construction, a unique experimental laboratory, the largest of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe, was inaugurated on Thursday 28 April 2022 at the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CIIRC CTU). Testbed for Industry 4.0 is a research infrastructure that is being built at CTU thanks to a significant investment of EU and Czech funds within the RICAIP centre. Thanks to this, the Czech industry has gained access to the latest scientific knowledge and applications for advanced manufacturing and modern factories of the 21st century. On that occasion, cooperation with the German Fraunhofer IWU and the VŠB-TUO University in Ostrava was signed in the presence of government representatives.
The Czech-German RICAIP Centre is the largest project in the field of robotics and industrial artificial intelligence, which is jointly funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in the amount of EUR 48.5 million. (i.e. approx. CZK 1.2 billion) for a period of six years. Most of these resources are dedicated for the purchase of the latest Inddustry 4.0 technologies. The Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CIIRC CTU forms the core of this RICAIP network of experimental workplaces. RICAIP thus links the Prague testbed with the industrial testbeds in Brno at CEITEC BUT and in Saarbrücken, Germany, which are jointly managed by the top institutes for artificial intelligence and automation DFKI and ZeMA. Together, these three testbeds form the basis of a robust European research infrastructure for advanced industrial production, the only one of its kind in Europe.
The Prague testbed has been in operation for more than three years, and has now undergone significant reconstruction and equipping with the latest technologies, which are often unparalleled in their parameters and composition. Throughout this time, it still continues to serve dozens of entities in the Czech Republic and Europe, scientists, but also small and medium-sized enterprises or international leaders such as Siemens, VW, Lego, and Airbus.
“Testbed is an increasingly appreciated advantage that enables the involvement of both CTU and other Czech partners from academia and industry in a number of prestigious European research projects and networks,” says Vojtěch Petráček, Rector of CTU in Prague. Thanks to this, CIIRC ČVUT is currently a partner in four of the six Centres of Excellence that have been supported by the European Commission in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics in recent years.
The opening ceremony of the Testbed at CIIRC CTU was attended by a number of distinquished guests, including the spiritual father of Industry 4.0, Professor Wolfgang Wahlster, government and ministry representatives headed by the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Helena Langšádlová, H.E. Andreas Künne, the German Ambassador, many representatives of universities and Czech industry.
„It is important that RICAIP, as a project of European significance, has a center in the Czech Republic and that it will bring Czech companies significant opportunities to develop their technological and innovation potential,“ emphasizes Helena Langšádlová, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, and adds: „The Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CTU is concrete tangible proof of this.“
“Thanks to this research infrastructure, our institute and CTU are succeeding in realizing a long-term vision – we are building a very comprehensive research ecosystem for intelligent industrial production. We connect world-class scientists working in the Czech Republic and abroad, and on the other hand we help the transfer of scientific knowledge into industrial practice,” explains the scientific director of CIIRC CTU and a member of the board of RICAIP, prof. Vladimír Mařík, and adds: “Testbed offers a real environment for research at the European level, but it also offers solutions or research services intended directly for Czech companies: manufacturing companies or technology developers. We are thus able to cover the entire innovation cycle, from the verification of purely scientific theories and experiments to the transfer of new technologies and practices to industry.”
Of the almost CZK 1.2 billion, which is divided between the four partners of the RICAIP center – CIIRC CTU, CEITEC VUT, DFKI and ZeMA, CZK 690 million is earmarked for CIIRC CTU, a significant part just for the testbed. By the end of March 2022, technologies worth 315 million crowns had already been delivered here, most of which are investment facilities. The planned acquired technologies together will exceed CZK 370 million.
On an area of 1,700 square meters, there are almost forty of the latest types of robots, including collaborative and mobile, 3D printers, machine tools, a full-fledged 5G campus network and completely unique machines for additive production by applying a variety of materials. The devices are connected by software and data using server and cloud applications using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. Testbed allows you to experiment with available devices or connect new devices.
“Today – April 28, 2022 – marks the end of the fundamental phase of the completion of the Testbed for Industry 4.0 at CIIRC CTU. There is a completely unique environment for testing, simulation and development of various scenarios, which are key to the transformation of the Czech economy towards Industry 4.0 in accordance with the requirements of the Green Deal,” points out Prof. Vladimír Mařík, Scientific Director, CIIRC CTU.
“RICAIP and testbed is a very specific example of effective Czech-German scientific and industrial cooperation. The universality of this environment is important – we participate in large research tasks in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics, but we also offer services to small and medium-sized enterprises in their transformation towards digitization and automation,” adds Dr. Tilman Becker, RICAIP Director.
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