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Digital Futures Strategic Research Programme

The Digital Futures Strategic Research Programme is illustrated by the matrix below. The programme is structured around four societal contexts, which are the rows of the matrix. These contexts are areas in which industry and society see opportunities and face challenges at the same time. The columns indicate the three main scientific and technological research themes forming the foundation of the digital transformation.

At a societal scale, it is necessary to simultaneously consider multiple factors, e.g., the citizens’ wellbeing, the environmental footprint, public safety, economic growth. This means that the societal contexts imply an interdisciplinary research programme by nature, and it will be necessary to involve several research groups and stakeholders so that the needs of each societal context are successfully addressed.

The three research themes Trust, Cooperate and Learn cut across the four contexts Smart society, Digitalized industry, Rich and healthy life, and Educational Transformation.

Digital Futures Strategic Research Programme

A set of four distinct, but not isolated, societal contexts form the focal points of the research of the Digital Futures.

  1. The first societal context is Smart Society. Urban societies are growing rapidly and becoming increasingly complex and reliant on large infrastructures. For example, the need for efficient and sustainable transportation increases steadily, and it is becoming evident that radically new solutions for mobility are required in order to fulfil the increasing demands while at the same time improving sustainability.
  2. Digitalized Industry is the second context and is focusing on disruptive innovations in product and service design, manufacturing and process automation. New paradigms provide the potential for drastic enhancement of product design and manufacturing through automation, connectivity, integration, modelling and simulation, and data handling/exploitation. This provides strong potentials for manufacturing flexibility, product customisation, and using all of these new capabilities to drive sustainability and a transition to a circular economy.
  3. The third societal context, Rich and Healthy life, concerns how digital interactions and technologies may bring richness, meaning and health to our everyday lives. The theme spans topics from health and wellbeing—including physical and mental wellbeing—to sports, enjoyment, games, access to culture, nature, food, and in general leading a good life.
  4. Educational Transformation is the fourth societal context. Modern digital technologies, AI and access to data provide new opportunities to develop education and ways of learning. Therefore, research on technology-enhanced learning and evidence-based development of curricula, education tools and pedagogics are essential components within this context.

The research programme hinges upon three scientific and technological research themes.

  1. The first one is trust, which emphasises the development of mechanisms that create and ensure trust in societal transformation in general as well as in specific engineered systems. Essential challenges are found within the intersection of privacy and information security to enable trust between users and systems.
  2. Cooperate is the second research theme. An observation is that systems are to an ever-growing degree interconnected and cooperating; creating new opportunities, but also increasing design and implementation complexity. Decisions and operations will be distributed, but the systems need to cooperate or even be cooperatively designed to enhance flexibility, efficiency and resilience. Furthermore, how can new technology best support the collaboration between humans, and between humans and intelligent systems?
  3. The third research theme is Learn, which is on how to extract information from data that makes systems smart and adaptive or even autonomous. Since the generation and storage of data will often be distributed, there is a strong need for efficient distributed data analytics. A fundamental understanding of how machine learning algorithms extract information from data is still missing, and the impact of the data on the learning process and the resulting bias is hardly understood. This gives rise to questions concerning legal safeguards and the rule of law.

Strong links between academia, industry and society

The core of the research programme projects is in the intersection between the societal contexts and the research themes. The programme spans projects all the way from the foundations of digital technologies to the demonstration and illustration of novel solutions applied to problems of major societal importance. Digital Futures research operation is illustrated by the three rotating circles to the right.

Illustration showing Links between academia, industry and society

The Centre will not only create strong links between academic and industrial research but also actively design, test and demonstrate systems and services at scale in the City of Stockholm and beyond.

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