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Aalto University receives 1 million euros for software-centric industrial automation program

  • Aalto University receives 1 million euros for software-centric industrial automation program
    Aalto Factory of the Future. Photo: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University
  • Schneider Electric donation of industrial automation technology, software licenses, and teaching support.

  • Students to answer growing need for automation expertise.

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Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries.

The future of industry is in the hands of the next generation of industrial engineers and operators. Schneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, has made a one million euros donation to the Aalto Factory of the Future education and innovation program.

Schneider Electric’s donation includes 200 licenses for IEC61499-based technology and the EcoStruxure™ Automation Expert industrial automation system, including remote working licenses, access to online training libraries, automation control hardware, and programming support for the students working on laboratory-scale EnAS production demonstrators.

“Aalto University has a vast amount of specialized knowledge that the fourth wave of industrialization requires,” said Valeriy Vyatkin, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Aalto University. “The goal of the Factory of the Future program is to convert that knowledge into practical competence for industrial use while inspiring students towards a future in industrial automation. The right tools and software make that easier for both the students and the faculty. We are grateful to Schneider Electric for their generous donation.”

“We are proud to support the education of more than 120 future automation experts at Aalto University,” said Dr. Barbara Frei, Executive Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric. “Schneider Electric has a long history of supporting higher education institutions and their students with technology and expertise. The industries of the future will be more agile, sustainable, and resilient because of these new engineers and the innovative technology they will bring.”

Schneider Electric has a long history of supporting higher education institutions and their students with technology and expertise

Urgent Need for Automation Professionals

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce paper, automation will accelerate the shift in workforce skills, gaining momentum to overtake the progress seen in the past 15 years. The research found that growth in demand for technological skills will rise 55 percent by 2030.

Today, there is a shortage of expert automation programmers to work on specific closed automation systems. Software-centric automation makes automation programming easily understandable by traditional IT programmers, which greatly expands the potential workforce.

Factory of the Future

The Aalto Factory of the Future serves as a project platform for using advanced information technologies on future systems. It focuses on flexible architectures made up of modular autonomous intelligent production units and aims to develop production system technologies, such as artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 architectures, Industrial Internet of Things, wireless communication (5G, Wi-Fi 6), edge, fog and cloud computing paradigms, virtual integration, digital twins, remote commissioning, operation and predictive maintenance, human-robot collaboration, simulation, and virtual and augmented reality.

“The business field has plenty of opportunities when it comes to founding startups,” said Vyatkin.  “This program will help us transfer our research results into practice for the industry to use. Training students in the use of software-centric automation is an investment in future industrial technologies. Thanks to this collaboration, students can study a technology that will become much more widespread in the future. An open automation platform is not tied to a single closed automation system. It is a versatile tool that also gives job applicants a step up in the labor market.”

“The Factory of the Future program is a collaborative effort to provide the skills and information students need in a digital, software-driven automation world,” said Jani Vahvanen, CEO Finland, Schneider Electric.  “It’s exciting to work with the new generation as they take up the mantel for the future of industrial automation. As the worlds of information technology and operational technology continue to merge, there is no limit to what’s possible. Aalto Factory of the Future is proving that right now.”

Software-Centric Industrial Automation  

An automation system must operate efficiently while communicating data between a host of other systems at the same time. Proprietary, closed and vendor-specific automation systems make developing automation applications complex and labor-intensive. Software-centric automation, based on the IEC61499 standard for interoperability, streamlines data communication between devices. For example, when transmitting data to a manufacturing execution system or in the cloud for analysis.

With software-centric automation, programming is 3 to 4 times faster. The software can be vendor-agnostic, meaning that the developed application can be used in other manufacturers’ devices. This not only makes the automation solution more flexible but also makes it much easier to modify systems and modernize equipment, as needed. Open, interoperable software-centric automation saves time, increases efficiency, and helps future-proof automation systems.

Technology for Teaching

Schneider Electric supports education, research, and consultancy for IEC61499-based applications through its Industrial Automation University Programs. Several universities are currently running programs or projects around IEC61499 technology, including Berlin University of Technology and Economics (Germany), LIT Cyber-Physical Systems Lab at Johannes Kepler University Linz (Austria), Lulea University of Technology (Sweden), and The Technical University of Munich (Germany). Higher Education institutions who are interested can contact their local Schneider Electric office or email arnold.kopitar@se.com.

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