Strategic research program
The Digital Futures Strategic Research Program is illustrated by the matrix to the right. The Program 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 program 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. We have carefully chosen a set of four distinct, but not isolated, societal contexts that will initially form the focal points of the research of the Digital Futures.
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.
Digitalized industry is the second societal context focusing on disruptive innovations in manufacturing and process automation. New paradigms enable a higher degree of customisation of products for end users, and can achieve higher utilisation of production systems due to increased product flexibility. New cyber-physical control and operation are required on multiple scales, from the real-time coordination of the production systems in the local manufacturing cell, via factory-wide component tracking and transport, to the logistics of material and components between factories and suppliers.
Rich and Healthy Life
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.
Engineering education 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 program hinges upon three scientific and technological research themes. 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.
Cooperate is the second research theme. An observation is that systems are to an ever-increasing degree distributed and interconnected; creating new opportunities, but also increasing design and implementation complexity. Although decisions and operations may be distributed, the system components need to be cooperatively designed to ensure flexibility, efficiency and resilience. Furthermore, technology should support the collaboration between humans, and between humans and intelligent systems, calling for novel abstractions and modes of interaction.
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 generation and storage of data will often be distributed, there is a strong need for efficient distributed data analytics. A fundamental understanding on 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.
The core of the research program is projects in the intersection between the societal contexts and the research themes. The program 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. 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.