MIT Portugal students took over the Innovative Ideas Competition promoted by Instituto Superior Técnico

Three projects developed by PhD students from the MIT Portugal Program (MPP) have just been named winners of TecInnov Thales, a contest sponsored by the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), from the Lisbon University. TecInnov t supports the most innovative projects developed by IST students. The proposals submitted by MPP students Pedro Fraga, Carlos Henriques and Paulo Cambra were awarded with funding to develop the projects. These  are focused on themes related to energy, mobility and sustainability, key areas of MIT Portugal.

The results achieved in this initiative, which is in its second edition, are the proof of the strong investment made by the MIT Portugal program on areas such as Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technological Change, especially in recent years. According to Pedro Arezes, National Director of the Program "these achievements show the growing effort made by the MIT Portugal Program to strengthen the component of innovation and entrepreneurship in its Doctoral Programs, which is confirmed by the distinction of its students in numerous national competitions and by the creation of more than 20 startups since the program started. "

Pedro Fraga was awarded a 5.000€ prize for his project ASIST (Autonomous System for Inspection of Structures). The MPP PhD student in Leaders for Technical Industries designed a solution to address the difficulties and challenges presented in the inspection of critical infrastructures. ASIST is an integrated solution made of an autonomous drone, a database, a Ground Console and an automatic anomaly detection software, which promises to significantly reduce inspection costs alongside an increase of the reliability and quality of results.  ASIST, with a wide range of modern sensors, will automatically detect faults in their early stages of development, that could otherwise go unnoticed, before they become a serious problem with possible implications for the safety or structural integrity of the infrastructure.

The main goal of the proposal submitted by Diogo Henriques, MIT Portugal Program Sustainable Energy Systems PhD student, aims to develop and test an indoor air quality monitoring system to infer occupancy rates, comfort and energy efficiency in buildings and transports, eg. class rooms and buses. This project was awarded 3.960€ for prototyping and proof of concept in the envisioned usage cases.

Finally, the team which includes the student Paulo Cambra of the MPP PhD in Transportation Systems, presented the BikeRider project which received a 3.820€ prize, thanks to a navigation mapping system of cycling routes which allows users to find the most suitable starting point/destination routes. The goal is to set up a cycling profile by collecting data from bicycles and cyclists based on their perception of comfort and safety of the route. Establishing these profiles will hopefully allow to help increase the use of bicycles in urban environment.

This is not the first time that students of the MIT Portugal Program stand out in this competition. In the 1st edition, on April 2017, two teams of MPP students were ranked in the two top places. Mário Alberto Vieira of the EDAM-LTI PhD presented the project AAL2Life (Ambient Assisted Living Integrated Solution) which raised 4.800€ and another work also developed by Paulo Cambra entitled WalkBot (Automated survey of accessibility data pedestrian), received 4.970€.

The competition was launched last year by IST to select the best projects with a maximum prize of 5.000€ per project and a total of 20.000€, in the following areas: Decision-making support, big data, sensors, monitoring/management of crowds, methods to support orientation, interpretation of cognitive descriptions of scenery, methods of graphical interface with humans.

Vencedores 2ª edição ThalesPedro Fraga (top), Paulo Cambra (bottom left) and Diogo Henrique (bottom right)

MIT Portugal PhD graduate researcher is mentoring the development of a chatbot that already is a reference in healthcare

“Florence” helps thousands of patients to know more about their health

Florence is an online personal health assistant that helps users to manage their health & wellness care. This “virtual friend” has evolved from being a simple symptom checker to become focused on educating and engaging users around their health. One of the project mentors, André Fialho, is a MIT Portugal Bioengineering PhD Alumni at Instituto Superior Técnico, who currently lives in the United States and whose recent research work is mainly focused on the analysis on how new technologies can help patients outside the Hospital.

Florence was launched at the beginning of 2017 and currently has more than 2 thousand daily users. Among its features this online assistant is a pill reminder, offers additional information about the user medication and explains what he must do if he misses a pill, thanks to an automated messaging system. All users have to do is to start chatting with her inside a messaging platform, like Facebook messenger, Kik or Skype.

André Fialho is confident of the potential of chatbots and says that “these solutions are nowadays used in many sectors such as Tourism, Food Industry and E-Commerce, however in Healthcare they are almost non-existent, so we strongly believe in Florence's potential” and adds “I think chatbots can solve a lot of the current problems of the healthcare industry and make health information more accessible for everyone.”

Florence was created in June 2016 as a hobby project of David Hawig, a German entrepreneur, and researcher. Today, Florence is one of the most commonly used chatbots and a reference in healthcare. Named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, she also puts healthcare on a new level. “If you see that people answered more than 200 reminders in a row, you know that you might actually help someone with your technology. And more and more people are also using other features of Florence like period or mood tracking. So, I think chatbots definitely have the potential to improve our healthcare system,” said David.

Florence is available in English and versions in Portuguese, Spanish and French are under development and will be added in the coming months.

Florence is available at: Facebook Messenger, Skype ou Kik.

More information at Florence´s website and Youtube video

Andr Fialho jpegAndré Fialho, MIT Portugal Bioengineering PhD Alumni

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In the Media: DN Online, CM online, TVI online, SIC Notícias onlineJornal Médico, Sapo.pt

The Future of Automotive Industry International Roundtable

Challenges and Opportunities in Design and Technology: a look into the next decade by MIT Portugal

The increasing growth of the automotive industry demands the development of groundbreaking solutions, innovative technologies and disruptive products, services and business models. New industrial players must constantly invest in R&D and look one step forward into the future, which was in fact the main objective of the International Industry Roundtable (IIR) promoted by the MIT Portugal Program, which took place on Monday, May 15th, at the RÓMULO - Centro Ciência Viva from the University of Coimbra.

The auto industry has some of the largest industrial R&D investors in the world. Typically, the annual investment in R&D surpasses 30 billion in Europe only. The automotive industry is also one of the most important industries in Portugal, being a top contributor for value creation and generation of jobs. It represents around 8% of the country’s GDP, 11% of the country exports and more than 30.000 direct jobs.

This Roundtable brought together more than 80 industry leaders, entrepreneurs, expert researchers and graduate students in a look ahead to the next 5-10 years of the industry. The Session allowed participants to discuss common objectives, share new technologies and ideas, and promoted networking and potential collaborations between participants from academia and industry.

The initiative counted on the participation of speakers from emerging companies based in Portugal such as the Fraunhofer Institute, Magnum Cap, AFIA, Brisa, Ceiia, TU Delft, Bosch, Caetano Bus, Uber, BMWi and Ubiwhere, and representatives of MIT Portugal, University of Coimbra, University of Minho, and University of Lisbon.

The International Industry Roundtables (IIR) are an ongoing initiative of the MIT Portugal Program in collaboration with multiple academic and business entities and this is the second edition dedicated to Cities, Energy and Transportation. The IIR aim is to use the neutral grounds of academia to bring together entrepreneurs, company executives, policy makers, scientists, engineers and graduate students around topics where cutting-edge technology is put at the service of sustainable economic and social development. The focus is to bridge views and find common objectives between industry and academia, as well as within industry and within academia. 

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Innovative proposal in the wind energy sector won the Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies (APREN) Award

Renewable energy was responsible for producing this year around 59% of the total amount of electricity in Portugal and it is expected that 1/3 comes from wind energy sources, according to data disclosed by APREN. It becomes more and more crucial to support alternative solutions to produce energy, a topic that was highlighted on the 2016 Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies Award which has honoured Bernardo Marques Amaral Silva, a INESCTEC researcher and a MIT Portugal Program Sustainable Energy Systems Phd doctorate at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto with the first prize for his thesis “Multi-terminal HVDC Grids: Control Strategies for Ancillary Services Provision in Interconnected Transmission Systems with Offshore Wind Farms, a pioneering approach to take the best profit of Wind farms (WF).

Wind Energy (WE) has largely contributed to the de-carbonisation of the energy sector and consequently to the definition of the European Commission (EC) targets on renewable-based electricity generation. During the last decade, massive investment has culminated in the substantial installation of Wind Farms (WF). Moreover, the ambitious plans for increasing these targets on renewable-based electricity generation demand the deployment of more WF. However, the European Union has settled the goal for the level of greenhouse gas reduction by 40% (by comparison with 1990 levels) until 2030 and the share of renewable energy to 27% in terms of energy consumption.

Simultaneously, the Fukushima incident has put pressure on European governments regarding the use of nuclear power plants which, although not considered as renewable, have reduced emission of greenhouse gases (compared to conventional power plants based on fossil fuels).

In order to meet the new goals, it is expected a significant contribution from offshore wind farms (at sea). From a technical point of view, the adoption of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) is crucial to allow the installation of high power PE and to manage high connexion distances from the mainland. Recent procedures intend to adopt direct current networks rather than connections “point-to-point” since they may also support the connection between mainland AC networks, allowing a greater integration of renewable sources and enabling the development of a European electricity market.

The work developed by Bernardo Marques Amaral Silva has focused on the development of strategies to control and operate HVDC networks with offshore wind farms, to allow the delivery of support services to the mainland electrical systems, in an autonomous environment without communication system.

In a first phase, a control scheme for allowing offshore WF as well as the interconnected AC mainland grids on participating on primary frequency control has been developed. This control scheme also took into account the need of provision of synthetic inertia by offshore WF. The results showed a successful accomplishment on mitigating an interconnected mainland grid frequency disturbance.

In a second phase, DC grids control schemes were developed and tested aiming at the operation of the DC grid during an AC mainland fault event (Fault Ride-Through  - FRT capability) and also to assure the operation of the DC grid following a permanent fault events or the disconnection of an onshore converter.

According to the former MIT Portugal Program student, the major outcome of this project consists on allowing the management of more wind energy production and consequently increasing energy coming from renewable sources. The idea has already been tested in laboratory and its feasibility has been verified so, in a near future, the goal is to test it in an existing wind farm.

The main objective of the second edition of the APREN Award was to support the best and most relevant academic Thesis held in Portuguese higher education institutions (related to renewable electricity) and to contribute to the disclosure and knowledge transfer between Research Centers and companies.

Premio APREN GeralBernardo Marques Amaral Silva honored by APREN

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MIT Portugal PhD student wins the Road Safety Innovation Award by ACP with an alternative solution to road humps

Francisco Duarte, a PhD Student in Transportation Systems of the MIT Portugal Program at University of Coimbra, was honored today with the first prize at the initiative promoted by Automóvel Clube Portugal in a partnership with BP Portugal, National Council of Rectors and National Innovation Agency. The 10 000€ prize will later be invested in the venture’s prototype and is currently under construction. It is expected that the laboratory tests will take place early next year and that the project pilot will be implemented in the second half of 2017. The project entitled VENEX presents a speed reduction system that induces the deceleration of vehicles without causing damage, noise or any discomfort to the passengers.

The VENEX - Vehicle Energy Efficient Extractor – equipment acts as in a similar fashion to a carpet that when placed on the floor actively reduces the speed of the vehicles by extracting kinetic energy, with a minimal impact on the automobile. Contrary to existing systems, this one absorbs the vehicles’ energy and makes it slow down safely, without any action of the driver and even without being perceptible since it causes no discomfort. By acting directly on the vehicles, this solution can be effective in different places such as crossings, intersections, roundabouts, residential areas, schools and hospital areas, among others where it is crucial to control the speed limits. Drivers who move within the legal velocity limits will not be penalized, and the energy will just be withdrawn according to the necessity of each place.

Currently, road safety is an issue of global importance, especially due to the number of traffic-related victims, which increases annually and has high social and economic costs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.24 million people lose their lives annually in road accidents, and the number of seriously injured exceeds 7.8 million. In a study carried out in Portugal in 2012, the economic costs related to traffic accidents goes up to 2.5 million euros, which represents about 1.54% of the country's GDP. A large number of accidents occur in urban areas, involving especially pedestrians. WHO has pointed out several measures to promote the decrease of the number of accidents, and being speed reduction the first and most important. Several solutions have been developed but the one that has the best results to date are still road humps, managing to decrease the number of pedestrian accidents by more than 40%.

In the media: ObservadorCorreio da ManhãAntena 1;  Jornal Económico , Notícias ao Minuto,  Destak onlineTechitt.

Entrega Prémios ACP Francisco DuarteFrancisco Duarte with Carlos Barbosa (ACP) and Luís Costa e Silva (BP)

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