29. November 2019

SCCH: 20 Years of the Digital Pioneer from Hagenberg

Minister Achleitner: “Hagenberg is an innovation hotspot with a great tradition and vision that is geared towards the future – and SCCH is a flagship of this innovation fleet from the Mühlviertel. On 28 November Software Competence Center Hagenberg (SCCH) celebrated a decade-marking anniversary with more than 200 guests. Economy and research minister Markus Achleitner congratulated the research centre on twenty successful years:

“Data and software are the most valuable assets in the age of digitalization and have been a focus of the work done by SCCH for twenty years. SCCH continually produces bursts of innovation, thereby creating jobs in Upper Austria that are modern and break new ground. The digital transformation is a key topic for the new Upper Austrian business and research strategy #upperVISION 2030 because digitalization is the chief motor for new technologies.”

When five professors at the then newly established Johannes Kepler University Linz set up Software Competence Center Hagenberg in 1999, a computer called Deep Blue had recently defeated the reigning world champion at chess. The subject of artificial intelligence caught the public’s imagination, became a topic of conversation in people’s homes and increasingly evolved into the most hyped issue of our time. Machines that learn, intelligent (“smart”) factories, big data, etc. – these technology trends have spread at a breathtaking pace. To deal with these huge amounts of data, computer performance has massively increased, as have the demands made of quality and security. With the smartphone and co, algorithms have long since become part of our private lives, and companies – from service providers to manufacturers – must meet the challenges posed by the digital transition.

A skilled partner for science and industry 

In such circumstances it is good to have a competent partner who is helping to shape this development and has become a pioneer in this field: at SCCH, research into the foundations of efficient data analysis and the development of high-quality software has been under way for twenty years with the support of central government (Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology/BMVIT and the Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs/BMDW), the government of Upper Austria, and industry as part of the COMET programme for centres of excellence. The research centre that was founded in 1999 as a Kplus centre of excellence and has been a successful COMET K1 research centre since 2008 passes on this knowledge to industry and supports partner companies – whether these are start-ups, technology leaders in the SME sector or industry market leaders – with the digital transformation.

In this way, data from industrial processes is analysed and used by experts in the field of data analysis for fault diagnosis, predictive maintenance, quality inspection and process optimization. Data from imaging systems helps in the detection of cancer cells and increasing safety in public buildings or rail vehicles. In a current project, SCCH is using its expertise in forecasting methods to develop groundbreaking tools for the flexibilization of energy markets. The software science division is working on safe software design, efficient engineering, optimized analytics (e.g. of software faults) and increased data security.

Milestone for information technology in Upper Austria

In the twenty years, EUR 47 million in COMET subsidies was brought to Hagenberg thanks to the competence centre programmes that are administered by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). Together with funds granted by the government of Upper Austria, the European Union and partners from science and industry it has so far been possible to conduct 144 research projects at SCCH for the transfer of knowledge and technology to local industry. From 2020, a further EUR 3.7 million will be available in the COMET module S3AI (Security and Safety for Shared Artificial Intelligence) with a view to laying the methodological foundations for reliable and safe shared artificial intelligence (AI) systems. “Software Competence Center Hagenberg is a COMET success story that makes a significant contribution to strengthening an entire region as well as an area of research and innovation,” explains Dr Andreas Wildberger, head of Structural Programmes at the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). 

 “SCCH has always been an important and active player in the UAR Innovation Network which now encompasses eleven member (associated) companies of UAR with a total of around 650 employees,” said Dr Wilfried Enzenhofer, CEO of Upper Austrian Research GmbH as he congratulated SCCH on its continuing successes. “With its focus on information and communications technology SCCH plays a pioneering role in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and security as well as exploring them as an overall concept. Only recently another groundbreaking project was launched. Its aim is to enable use of existing AI models and data beyond the confines of individual companies in future – and that with no risk. This will open up access to AI technologies to a large number of businesses.

One of the founding fathers of SCCH is Professor Bruno Buchberger. The founder of Softwarepark Hagenberg also had the vision to lay the foundation of the JKU’s non-university research activities there, a pioneering move. Today, SCCH performs top-level research with an international orientation and reputation in Hagenberg and is involved in the LIT Open Innovation Center and LIT Pilot Factory of the JKU in Linz. “We see SCCH as a strong research partner in informatics because pooling expert knowledge in a centre of excellence raises the international profile of the Johannes Kepler University Linz,” said Vice-Rector Prof. Stefan Koch of the JKU. 

Pioneering research without frontiers

Underlining the important role played by SCCH, CEO Markus Manz said: “SCCH supports Upper Austrian businesses with the digital transition. A radical transformation that is turning traditional industrial concerns into pioneering businesses with a large proportion of software: more and more, industrial companies are becoming software companies. For industrial firms in Upper Austria, several of whom are global market leaders in various branches, innovations without software are no longer possible. It is here that we make a major contribution with our research expertise in the fields of data science and big data, AI and security.

Four Horizon-2020 projects and one Interreg project are currently running at SCCH, all of which are adding to the centre’s international character. “Five EU research projects in only two years is an impressive achievement, explained CSO Prof. A Min Tjoa. “They reinforce the lighthouse role and attractiveness of the SCCH as an Upper Austrian centre for 'research without frontiers' as well as that of the region itself, and support our efforts to establish our interdisciplinary and intercultural team. Currently we have 73 people working here from 16 nations as diverse as Egypt, Brazil, India or Ukraine.

Above all else, the digital transformation is a challenge to society, Research Director Dr Bernhard A. Moser explained. “At issue here is not just data security or privacy, but the role of people at a fundamental level. In the FFG (Austrian Research Promotion Agency) project AI@Work (Human Centered AI in Digitized Working Environments) we are exploring how humans and AI can work together as a team to compensate each other’s shortcomings while guaranteeing that humans remain in control.” Moser is also co-initiator of a nationwide academic platform for AI in Austria which is involved in the strategic process Artificial Intelligence Mission Austria (AIM AT 2030): “The platform serves to examine topics relating to the technological evolution as well as aspects with relevance to society such as legislation and data security. To guarantee widespread use of AI, the appropriate parameters must be put in place.”

Photos: reproduction free of charge

Copyright: Cityfoto / SIMLINGER Wolfgang

Photo: The evening’s speakers congratulate SCCH