INESC TEC – Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science envisions to be a relevant international player in Science and Technology (S&T) in the domains of Computer Science, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Networked Intelligent Systems, and Power and Energy. The dual mission of INESC TEC is to excel in research and to seek its social and economic impact, with a unifying commitment to the scientific and technological aspiration of fostering pervasive intelligence.

As a leading R&D institution in Engineering in Portugal, INESC TEC implements the concept of the knowledge-to-value production chain, leading the research activity from knowledge generation to its valorisation through a mix of technology transfer processes, from the pure transfer of technology to collaborative development, advanced consulting and training, until the possible creation of spin-offs.

As an institution operating at the interface between the academic and business worlds, bringing academia, companies, public administration, and society closer together, through its “managed science” model INESC TEC strongly supports policies within the scope of the S&T system and contributes to critical S&T components in other policy areas.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the organization?

INESC TEC: The R&D centres of INESC TEC are structured in four thematic clusters – Computer Science, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Networked Intelligent Systems, and Power and Energy.

The Computer Science cluster covers many core areas, from programming languages and rigorous software development to complex information systems, from data processing to large scale computing, from embedded systems to virtual environments, and from security to quantum computing. Its competences rely on Artificial Intelligence, Computer Graphics and Virtual Environments, Cryptography and Information Security, Information Management and Systems, Parallel and Distributed Computing and Software Theory and Engineering.

The cluster on Industrial and Systems Engineering researches and innovates in systems and services applied to the management of value streams. It envisions to lead complex decision-making in end-to-end, customer-centric, agile supply chains across different industries (e.g., manufacturing, retail, health and mobility). Its activities cover the design, implementation and improvement of systems for decision support, operations human-centred automation, management and intelligence, as well innovation and technology management.

The cluster on Networked Intelligent Systems aims at creating autonomous networked intelligent hybrid systems enabled by ubiquitous sensing and information processing. It includes complementary scientific areas such as optical sensing and microfabrication of devices; bio-instrumentation, biomedical imaging, and neuro-engineering; robotics and autonomous systems operating in complex environments; electronics, radio and optical communications, communications networks, multimedia technologies, computer vision, and intelligent information processing.

Finally, the Power and Energy cluster is focused on traditional and emergent areas of power and energy systems, for planning and operation purposes, with an emphasis on renewable energy sources integration, electric vehicles deployment, distributed energy resources management, demand response, smart grids and energy analytics, through steady-state and dynamic network analysis, reliability models and tools, optimization, soft computing and data science.

As opposed to the science-push that occurs naturally in the Research Centres, and in order to structure the market-pull innovation process, markets are targeted with the TEC4 initiatives.

Each TEC4 targets a specific market and induces cross-Cluster multidisciplinary projects. Five TEC4s have been established, namely:

  • TEC4AGRO-FOOD: agro-food and forestry;
  • TEC4ENERGY: energy related activities and economy;
  • TEC4HEALTH: health and well-being related activities and economy;
  • TEC4INDUSTRY: production technologies, manufacturing, distribution, logistics and retail;
  • TEC4SEA: sea activities and economy.

E.E: What’s the news for 2021 about new directions?

INESC TEC: Looking at 2021 and beyond, and in order to accomplish its mission, INESC TEC’s activity will be guided by its six policy priorities: full coverage of the knowledge value chain, excellence in research, talent development, and innovation, integration and multi-disciplinarity, scale, density, and critical mass, international visibility and presence, and ethics, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion.

In line with those, INESC TEC has committed to a set of institutional initiatives that will enable the institute to strengthen its intervention capacity in the national and international S&T systems, as well as its ability to carry out its mission for the benefit of society.

These initiatives may be summarized under the following categories: managed science model, excellence in research, partnership with Higher Education Institutions, structural initiatives, internationalization, contribution to public policy, openness to society, support structure and internal measures to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic impacts.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

INESC TEC: The forthcoming pervasive digitalisation brings several transversal challenges. As computing becomes fully decentralised, mobile, increasingly autonomous, and ubiquitous current information and communications systems pose many hard and intricate challenges associated to scalability, security and criticality. The amounts of data that need to be efficiently, timely and ethically explored and exploited, challenges our capacity to filter, curate, store, process, query and visualise the data. In addition, the economic data value, trade and state secrets, and individual rights require data manipulation to comply with demanding levels of privacy. Smarter and autonomous systems in critical realms such as utilities, health care, transportation and finance require dealing with new, and often unanticipated, that challenge the best practices of software engineering, network and information security and human-computer interaction.

With regards to Future European industry, it has to combine high and widespread productivity with a high level of environmental and social sustainability. This will mean moving from local optimization – for individual factories or clusters of firms – to complex systems optimization, with major impacts on the way supply chains and factories are designed, on the technologies used, infrastructure and wider government policies. The proper deployment of these technologies is paramount in the pursuit of many national and European priorities, particularly those related to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, such as the European Green Deal and the Europe Fit for the Digital Age. Therefore, some of these technologies are being thoroughly studied from the perspective of operations management and decision support, namely collaborative robots, machine learning and blockchain.

Finally, the digitalization and decarbonization of energy systems will be accelerated, requiring significant advances in the combination of novel computational strategies, smart hardware for power conversion and ambitious regulatory approaches. More concretely, the challenges associated to the variability of renewable based energy sources, its distribution at different voltage levels over the grid and the fact that it is connected using power electronics inverters, are significant. Furthermore, several changes need to occur in the way the electrical system is planned and operated. In fact, the foreseen increase in new types of sources and resources in the coming years, namely solar photovoltaics and electric vehicles, is a challenge.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?

INESC TEC: Despite the current context of high uncertainty caused by COVID-19 Pandemic, INESC TEC’s activity plan for 2021 foresees a good performance.

Looking at numbers, INESC TEC expects to keep its human resources capacity, with 760+ integrated HR and 320+ PhDs and the total revenue planned for 2021 will grow 8%.

The institution is planning to maintain its scientific production with a clear focus on top-ranked journals.  In 2021, the number of invention disclosures and software copyright registrations is expected to rise, as well as license agreements and spin-offs.

Despite the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic, still expected during 2021, INESC TEC’s researchers plan to maintain a dynamic activity in scientific dissemination events and other formats.

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