St. Petersburg Technology Start-Ups Are Striving to Make It to Europe
The global pace of digitalisation is enormous, but European post-graduates in mining do not lag behind the trend - as of now, the most demanded innovative solutions in the EU are the ones that simplify work processes through the use of information technologies. Most importantly, both the EU and the companies are ready to pay for revolutionary developments. One of the institutions, whose aim is to search for the new promising projects and facilitate the financing of those, is the European Institute of Technology and Innovation (EIT).
The most recent event held by the EIT was the Expert Forum on the Digitalisation in the Raw Materials Sector, co-organised and hosted by the University of Leoben. Among the Forum’s participants were noticed European start-ups represented by, for instance, Luleå University of Technology (Sweden), Aalto University (Finland), and Freiberg University of Mining and Technology (Germany). These higher education institutions are the winners of the annual competition of young EU researchers delivered by the EIT. The qualifying projects are funded through the EIT’s grants - the total budget for 2020 is three billion euros.
The projects provided by contest’s participants are targeted at innovating mineral companies by adopting digital solutions linked to such areas as exploration, mining and mineral processing, or collection, analysis and management of vast quantities of data.
One of the winning projects is named ’Laser Strainer’, which is a non-stop monitoring system that keeps continuously tracking the conveyor capacity, size and shape of bulk materials in production. A Laser Strainer is a solution that allows enterprises to optimise the process of monitoring product and material quality, with the purpose being the efficient resource use.
Another solution is Loadsensing, a wireless system. Its purpose is to collect data from monitoring infrastructure at remote locations. If real-time access to this information is established, those in charge can manage employees efficiently, assess various risks and predict natural disasters.
Yury Zhukovsky, Director of the Centre for Digital Technology at St. Petersburg Mining University, was one of the speakers at the Forum. He came to present the report on the performance of the Centre, describing an integrated digital interaction of different university’s departments and providing information on the issue of mining-engineering education as related to IT and work process automation.
As Mr Zhukovsky explains, ”Our intent is to show that we, in the Mining University, have numerous digitalisation projects going on. Still, the most important for us is to make sure that digital technologies correlate with KPIs. Otherwise, if there is no link between them, no one in Russia will invest in these projects.
When we are talking about technology start-ups, the scope of activities that could be carried out is vast. Any project can pay off, even better than Google. What we want is to prove that here, in Russia, we can establish start-ups of not the lesser scale. Besides, it is also interesting to compare the projects we are developing here, in the Mining University and the Centre for Digital Technology, with those our European partners are involved in”.
According to the Director of the Centre for Digital Technology, Russian post-graduates will soon have an opportunity to present their start-up ideas at the European forums together with their Austrian colleagues. All because in December 2019, the University of Leoben got approved as a key partner university of the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO.
Mr Zhukovsky added, ”Two of our students were among the Forum’s participants - Aleksandra Buldysko and Aleksei Boikov. Both of them had their own projects to present. For example, Alexandra is engaged in developing digital twin technology specifically purposed for managing the oil transport system, and Aleksei’s research is connected to the use of machine vision for advancing numerical modelling techniques for bulk media. In my opinion, these two start-ups, delivered by my colleagues, are quite competitive”.
According to Andreas Klossek, Managing Director at the EIT, the European Institute of Technology and Innovation cooperates with different partners, not only with European countries.
The University of Leoben (Montanuniversität Leoben) was approved as a key partner university of the International Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO in December 2019. In practice, it translates into joint scientific efforts, new exchange opportunities for students, including summer schools; the Austrian university will also coordinate work of other higher education institutions in the country.
As Dr Klossek explains, ”Our primary goal is to secure the raw materials supply for Europe. It means, of course, working together with international partners - from Russia, the US, Canada, China, and other countries as well. We are also aware of what the Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education stands for and we are familiar with UNESCO initiatives. Such endeavours are of specific interest to us, as we need strategical alliances with international partners. This way, we bring new expertise to our projects”.