Monday, June 11, 2018

Universities Turn Their Attention to Autonomous Technology in Shipping and Logistics

New Collaboration Produces Alliance Aimed at International Cooperation and Investment
Shipping News Feature
FINLAND – With the country already taking a prominent place in the field of autonomous and advanced shipping and logistics technology, epitomised by the recent collaboration launched between materials handling specialist Kalmar and the Yara nutrition group and the work undertaken on the all-electric ferries launched both home and abroad, comes news of a programme designed to accelerate the development of automated solutions for sea and land transport, aviation and non-road machinery, as well as draw foreign direct investment.

The Research Alliance for Autonomous Systems (RAAS) has been launched by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology and eight other universities and universities of applied sciences. Business opportunities have already been identified for solutions with varying levels of autonomy, for example in the Finnish marine industry where development has taken off quickly thanks to the One Sea business ecosystem. Finland has a solid history in the R&D of world-leading autonomous solutions in the mining, ports and forest sectors whilst Finland’s automotive industry and transport service companies have also demonstrated their ability to innovate.

For several decades, Finnish research organisations have been systematically developing high-level automated solutions as well as their own expertise in domestic and international research projects. RAAS is designed to bring together such leading research teams and expertise in various fields to form joint national areas of strength. The alliance aims to provide companies an easy access to world-class scientific knowledge and expertise in the field of autonomous transport and logistics solutions. This is organised around the ten research task forces focusing on themes such as the ethics of autonomous systems, regulations, business, artificial intelligence and operational levels.

The other eight partners in the programme are the universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Turku and Åbo Akademi and the Applied Science Universities of Oulu, Turku and Novia. Kalle Kantola, Vice President, Research at VTT, commented:

“Autonomous systems are one of Finland’s national strengths in the digitalisation and innovation activities of the export industry. However, international competition is fierce. The RAAS alliance will introduce synergies among different application and technology areas, which will markedly accelerate development. At the same time, our research teams can develop their expertise as they confront increasingly challenging problems."

Interest from the worlds of both academia and commerce have already expressed interest in the concept with Sauli Eloranta from Rolls-Royce stressing the importance of cooperation and cross learning between the different domains in the development of autonomy, and Gary Marquis, Dean at Aalto University, saying the collaboration will provide access to research and development services for international networks of experts, and that RAAS was actively seeking international research teams to join the alliance. Pauli Kuosmanen, Dean at Tampere University of Technology, concluded:

"To facilitate [this] business-oriented innovation, we are bringing together the latest scientific knowledge, jointly creating new know-how and developing agile operating models around test beds."