Data Science for SMEs and "Hidden Champions" – Ulm University and TH Ulm Found a Joint Research Transfer Centre

Ulm University

Huge amounts of data are generated in industrial production, autonomous driving, or medical imaging. The newly established Transfer Centre for Digitalisation, Analytics and Data Science Ulm (DASU) supports companies in discovering and utilizing relevant information from these very large data volumes. To this end, interdisciplinary researchers from Ulm University (UULM) and Ulm University of Technology (THU) are pooling their expertise. The idea of the research and transfer centre was developed jointly by the Ulm Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK), the city of Ulm, UULM and THU, and other regional partners. In the RegioWin 2030 competition, the association has already been awarded as a lighthouse project. Now, UULM and THU have taken the next step by founding the DASU Virtual Research Centre.

The digital transformation is moving inexorably forward: in order to stay competitive, regionally rooted "hidden champions" in particular must take on the challenge of digitalisation. The newly established Transfer Centre for Digitalisation, Analytics and Data Science Ulm, DASU for short, is now available to help them with data science and analytical questions. At the centre, researchers from UULM and THU support companies, but also municipalities or educational institutions, in creating knowledge and value from data. "How can information be extracted and interpreted from huge amounts of data using intelligent analysis methods?" is how DASU board member Professor Manfred Reichert, a computer scientist at Ulm University, sums up the key question. With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, recommendations for action or new business models can be derived from such data lakes. In the digital factory with networked machines, for example, maintenance work or warehousing can be optimised. "Thanks to object recognition, entrepreneurs can predict which materials will soon be missing and react to the impending bottleneck," explains Professor Reinhold von Schwerin, DASU board member from THU.

Application Areas Range from Industry 4.0 to Medicine

Overall, the transfer centre, which is unique in Germany, relies on an interdisciplinary, holistic approach that encompasses diverse application areas in addition to the classic data science disciplines of mathematics and computer science – these areas range from human machine interaction to digital health to engineering and economic issues in the context of Industry 4.0. In addition to a research transfer to industry and data science consultations, a digitalisation laboratory is to be set up in Ulm for testing, demonstrating and visualising application-oriented solutions. In addition, there will be training offers for employees in the areas of data science, data analytics and artificial intelligence. "The use of data science methods is the key to digital transformation. At the DASU Transfer Centre, companies, including SMEs, or municipal institutions are enabled to lift their data treasures," explains Professor Karsten Urban, a mathematician at Ulm University.

Cooperative Doctorates and Projects in the Field of Data Science.

DASU will be established as a non-profit foundation under civil law with the participation of UULM and THU, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Ulm (IHK Ulm), the City of Ulm, and regional companies. UULM and THU are contributing through their joint Virtual Centre, whose constituent meeting took place on 6 May 2021. The Virtual Centre will primarily carry out publicly funded research projects and cooperative doctorates in the field of data science and data analytics. Synergies in teaching exist with relevant Master's degree programmes such as "Artificial Intelligence", "Intelligent Systems" and continuing education programmes of the "School of Advanced Professional Studies" (SAPS). "Both Data Science and the research field of Artificial Intelligence are among the strategic development areas of Ulm University. In the DASU transfer centre, researchers from various disciplines and institutions pool their expertise to extract valuable information from huge amounts of data. Together, the partners from Ulm will take science and especially transfer in this promising field to the next level," sums up Professor Michael Weber, President of Ulm University.

Transfer Centre DASU Awarded as Lighthouse Project

Recently, the DASU Transfer Centre was successful in the state-wide RegioWin 2030 competition: its development will be supported with more than 5.9 million euros over the next 6 years. A jury had awarded the regional development concept submitted by the cross-border association of regional associations and chambers of commerce, "Schwabenbund" - among other things, DASU was awarded as a lighthouse project. "We are very pleased about the award for the concept. The DASU lighthouse project strengthens research and transfer in the field of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence" comments Professor Marianne von Schwerin, Prorector for Research at THU. "Together with our partners, we have managed to bring the targeted funding into the region. DASU will act as a facilitator and impetus for digital change and digital transformation in the region.

Text and media contact: Annika Bingmann (Universität Ulm)
Ed Kintzinger (Technische Hochschule Ulm)

Data Science: Opportunity and Challenge for Regional Companies (Image: Nicolas Herrbach, via THU)
The DASU Transfer Centre supports regional companies in creating knowledge and value from data, e.g., in the context of Industry 4.0 (Symbolic image: Heiko Grandel)