The Center for Computing Technologies (TZI) at the University of Bremen has been significantly contributing to the technological location Bremen since 1995. This year, the TZI is celebrating its 25th birthday. It is time to take a look into the past and the future of this strong research institute.
With the topic it handles, the Center for Computing Technologies (TZI) at the University of Bremen is in the middle of the massive radical change that has triggered digitalization in society. This year, the TZI will celebrate its 25th birthday – however, this will be done without a ceremony due to the pandemic. The jubilee still creates an opportunity for us to take stock: How has the institute where the competences of around 160 scientists from various faculties are bundled contributed to science, the economy, and society?
“The TZI has contributed to the development of Bremen State in diverse ways over the past quarter of a century, yet is also seen as an internationally significant institute with research cooperations across the whole world,” emphasizes the managing director of the TZI, Professor Rainer Malaka. “We are active in the fields of research, transfer, and teaching. Thus, we have not only made important contributions to the developments in future fields, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and 5G mobile networks, but have also trained desperately-needed IT specialists, especially for the region Bremen.”
Transferring Research Findings into the Economy Quickly
Each year, the TZI scientists work on an average of 120 research projects. This is often foundation research that builds the basis for technologies of the future – the researchers regularly project 10 or 20 years into the future. At the same time, a further core task is transferring application-related research findings into Bremen’s economy quickly so that society can benefit. For example,the TZI is currently helping to establish a transfer center for artificial intelligence (AI) and working on the implementation of Bremen State’s AI strategy. The TZI is also involved when it comes to the topic of open science, thus the free accessibility of research findings and the inclusion of diverse society groups into science.
“Humans Are Always the Main Focus for Us”
The findings from completed projects are already being implemented in several fields, e.g. the health sector, telecommunication, the automobile industry, or smart home applications. The TZI uses technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, 5G mobile networks, and robotics. “Humans are always the main focus for us,” underscores Malaka. “We do not want to replace humans but rather support them in living a self-determined life. In the working world it is also about decreasing harmful and monotonous work for humans.”
Support for Engineering, Surgery, and Rehabilitation
Some of the earliest TZI research areas that are now being implemented in practice include wearable computing, i.e. wearable computers than can, for example, be worn on your body when complicated maintenance is being carried out so that the users have both hands free. The TZI has also developed different projects for the support of surgeons during operations, for the training of complicated hip operations, and also for the carrying out of rehabilitation measures at home.
Research on AI in the EASE Collaborative Research Center
One particular success story was the granting of the EASE Collaborative Research center (CRC) at the University of Bremen by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The researchers involved under the lead of Professor Michael Beetz develop new artificial intelligence methods. The research has the aim of enabling robots to complete day-to-day tasks so that people with physical impairments can lead a self-determined life in their own four walls.
The field of communications engineering under the lead of Professor Armin Dekorsky was involved in the development of today’s 5G mobile network technology and is already focusing on the sixth generation. Cooperation partners are often renowned, international universities, as well as companies ranging from medium-sized ones in Bremen to international corporations.
Training of Desperately Needed Specialists for the Region
Teaching is also of a high priority at the TZI. “Our students are involved in research from a very early stage onwards,” explains Malaka. “Our graduates therefore carry state-of-the-art knowledge and know-how into the companies for which they later work.” The study “Struktur und Entwicklungsperspektiven der IT-Branche im Land Bremen” (Structure and Development Perspectives of the IT Sector in Bremen State) by the bremen digitalmedia association and the Institute for Labor and Economy recently showed that these specialists are desperately needed in the region. According to the study, three quarters of the participating IT companies stated that filling positions in the previous twelve months was problematic.
Numerous University-Based Spin-Offs
Some of these companies were in fact established by former TZI students and scientists. In 25 years, the TZI has initiated nearly 30 spin-off companies. Some of the most well-known companies include Encoway, which was founded by form TZI researcher Christoph Ranze. The company, which is part of the Lenze Group and employs more than 200 staff members in Bremen, is currently erecting the new Digital Industry Hub in the Technology Park at the University of Bremen.
International Attention for Current Research Highlights
Research highlights that will draw a particularly large amount of attention to themselves in the coming years are the MUHAI (Meaning and Understanding in Human-centric AI) and Knowledge4Retail projects. In the MUHAI project, an international consortium is developing the foundations for artificial intelligence that can truly understand humans instead of only reacting to behavioral and linguistic patterns. Knowledge4Retail deals with the development of robots that strengthen stationary stores for the competition with their online competitors.
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