12. Dec. 2023

Digitalisation is a topic that resonates throughout society today, not only in terms of technological progress but also as an economic, ethical and general societal challenge. That is why CEITEC Brno University of Technology joined the national initiative Week for Digital Czechia and on 23 November organised a conference entitled “Digitisation: trends and practices”. The morning programme of the conference belonged to companies, while in the afternoon, our gates were opened to schools and the general public – especially the gates of our “factory of the future”, the so-called Industry 4.0 RICAIP Testbed. Due to the interest from businesses but also from experts, journalists, schools and the general public, a total of 148 participants passed through our testbed during the day.

The morning conference was intended for representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises, for whom a rich programme consisting of presentations and panel discussions on the topics of digitisation, automation, and Industry 4.0 was prepared in cooperation with our partners CzechInvest, the Agency for Enterprise and Innovation (API), Eurocentre and Europe Direct.

The event was opened by Prof. Pavel Václavek, Head of the Cybernetics and Robotics research group, Head of the Technical Cybernetics research area and coordinator of a number of projects related to the Industry 4.0 RICAIP Testbed at CEITEC BUT. And what is this testbed? A testbed is a kind of smart factory with high-tech equipment including robots, production machines, artificial intelligence systems and software solutions for designing and simulating production processes. It is used not only for research but primarily as a testing environment for companies. It can be particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises that may have interesting ideas for innovative processes but may not have the equipment to test them. That is what testbeds are for. Testbeds are equipped with software solutions for designing or simulating the product, the production process and the programming of individual production machines. A testbed is therefore a scientific workplace open to cooperation with business.

The Brno Industry 4.0 RICAIP Testbed was inaugurated in 2022 and was created within the framework of the Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP) project, which is an international project focused on the transfer of knowledge and skills in the field of industrial production. Besides the Brno testbed, the project also includes the Prague testbed at CIIRC CTU and German partners – Saarbrücken companies DFKI and ZeMA.

How does cooperation with the Brno testbed even work? Since the Industry 4.0 RICAIP Testbed in Brno is also part of the European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH -DIGIMAT), experiments and tests run there can be 100% covered for companies with up to 499 employees.

Prof. Václavek’s presentation was followed by Dominik Urban from API with information about current subsidy calls for digitalization of small and medium-sized enterprises, Vít Čermák from CzechInvest with a presentation about the digitalization programme called Technical Incubation, and Alena Lubasová, Executive Director of the Strojírna Oslavany, with a presentation about how she transformed the Oslavany engineering plant into a modern, fully digitalized production.

In the discussion panel “Digitalization as an opportunity for companies”, Petr Očko, Senior Director of the Digitalization and Innovation Section of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic (MPO ČR) and Director General in charge of CzechInvest, shared his international expertise in the field of digitalization and the possibilities of government support for digitalization in the Czech Republic. The panel also included Jan Hirš from T-Mobile and Michal Vrbický from Twinzo. The moderator Soňa Baranová guided the participants through the whole morning.

The conference also included consultations on companies’ project plans with specialists from CzechInvest, API and the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TAČR). The afternoon programme was dedicated to schools and the general public, for whom we prepared tours of the testbed and an introduction to the concept of a “smart factory”.

Highlights of the programme included tours of the Industry 4.0 RICAIP Testbed, during which participants were able to see firsthand the equipment of the testbed. As usual, the four-legged walking robot that paraded around the hall attracted the most attention, as well as the synchronized “robot dance” to music. However, the aim was not to boast of technical achievements but to demonstrate practical applications for digitalization and automation of production in small and medium-sized enterprises. As Prof. Václavek put it, “This testbed is not only a showcase of technological progress, but also a platform for cooperation, learning and development of our country’s industrial potential.”

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