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Easier access to artificial intelligence
In the ManuBrain research project, the University of Siegen and its partners are developing an AI platform with low technical hurdles for use by small and medium-sized enterprises. Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister for Economics and Digitalization of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), recently approved the funding.
In industry, everybody's talking about digitalization and AI right now. But when it comes to practical implementation, many companies don't know where to start. Often, it's unclear what the term means exactly, and fears of high costs or technological effort hold people back. The University of Siegen along with various partners – including SMS group in Hilchenbach and the company Albrecht Bäumer in Freudenberg – aims to break down these barriers in the ManuBrain project. "We want to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises in the manufacturing industry to access artificial intelligence", says Prof. Dr-Ing. Peter Burggräf, the Chair of International Production Engineering and Management (IPEM), who tackles these issues within the Cyber Production Management core research team.
The research project is supported with a total of just under EUR 1.8 million from EU and state funding as part of the IKT.NRW leading market competition. Now the NRW Minister for Economics and Digitalization, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, has handed over the official subsidy notification. The ministry is supporting a total of eleven innovation projects to the tune of some EUR 16 million. "Eleven stand-out projects can now be launched. They show that powerful cooperations between business and science are instrumental in paving the way for the future. Information and communication technologies are the drivers of digital transformation, especially for the NRW region as a business location. The subsidized projects in the fields of energy, production, mobility, logistics, health and work underline this fact. I'm excited to see how the ideas are implemented, and I wish all the innovators great success," said Pinkwart.
The project at the University of Siegen aims to develop a universal AI platform for a wide range of industrial applications. It will be a modular, algorithm-based system available for companies to access. The software will store and evaluate data from machines to help optimize processes. Here is an example of the kind of application possible: Why is a machine idle for ten percent of the time? Could the machine be set up differently? How do external conditions such as temperature influence the product? The stored data can be used to find ways of optimizing processes. "But these are only a fraction of a great many possibilities. The options for using the AI platform will be very diverse", says Fabian Steinberg, the project manager at the University of Siegen. One special aspect is that the software can be used in a wide range of industrial applications.
Therefore, one of the jobs of the scientists will be to go into the cooperating companies and identify possible applications. "The idea is that the AI platform is optimized to the needs of machinery and plant construction companies and enables them to use AI. This is how we want to break down obstacles", says Prof. Burggräf.
Participants in the ManuBrain project are not only the University of Siegen, but also the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing as well as the companies Albrecht Bäumer, SMS group, Recogizer, and Zenit. The project is scheduled to run for three years.
Handover of the official subsidy notification for the ManuBrain project in the ministry (left to right): Prof. Jochen Garcke (Fraunhofer SCAI), Jürgen Schnitzmeier (Zenit), Stefan Braun (Zenit), Prof. Peter Burggräf (University of Siegen), NRW Minister for Economics and Digitalization Prof. Andreas Pinkwart, Stephan Schulze (SMS group) and Fabian Steinberg (University of Siegen). (Source: MWIDE NRW / M. Hermenau)