CO2 Can Be a Valuable Raw Material. Here's How
Jan 24, 2019

What if we did something with carbon emissions, instead of continuing to try and contain them on a massive scale?

The world is off track on climate action, with global warming heading towards 3°C this century, according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We used to think that if we could keep warming below 2°C, then the changes we would experience would somehow be manageable. But the IPCC’s report states that even going past 1.5°C is gambling with the planet's liveability.

While the negotiators at the 24th UN Climate Conference in December 2018 secured agreement on a range of measures that will make the Paris Agreement operational in 2020, now is high time to plan action - in cities, rural areas, energy systems, construction, transport and industry.

Action is expected from the sector that I represent - the chemical industry. It produces many useful products that we can hardly do without, from medications, adhesives and cleaning products to high-quality engineering plastics. However, producing these materials consumes a great deal of energy and natural resources, and releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

Thanks to modern processes and constant efforts, a lot less is released than previously. However, in Europe alone, industrial processes are the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Still, the chemical industry is a key enabler for a more sustainable future, and part of the solution.

One example of thinking differently is CO2. What if we did something with it, instead of continuing to try and contain it on a massive scale? One promising pathway is using this climate destroyer as a useful raw material, to provide the valuable carbon that the chemical industry so heavily relies on. In doing so, we would need fewer raw materials from fossil sources such as petroleum.

There is a growing movement utilizing non-fossil resources, such as carbon dioxide and plants. This constitutes an important facet of the circular economy, which is still in its infancy. But moving in a circle doesn’t just mean recycling; rather, the entire cycle must be considered.

All the various actors in the cycle must cooperate. A prime example of collective action in terms of material cycles is Carbon4PUR. This pan-European, large collaborative project studies how smelting gases, including CO2, from steel production can be used to produce chemicals and end products. The consortium is made of 14 partners from seven countries and comprises the whole value chain.

I’m certain that sooner or later, CO2 as a resource will become an economic factor. Several companies around the world are already developing new technologies and business ideas around CO2-based products. Unlocking the potential of these ideas doesn’t just require political support - acceptance by society at large is also needed. And the financial sector has the opportunity to channel venture capital into new raw materials, stimulating the start-up scene.

The chemical and plastics industry would be well-advised to explore this topic, as it could help in reaching ambitious climate targets. As a key sector, this industry has considerable influence over its products and how they are developed, and therefore can impact the sustainability balance and climate effect of downstream industries.

Above all, it is the sound economic argument that should prompt the chemical industry to look around for alternatives to petroleum and expand its resource base. It will have to prepare for the fact that generating greenhouse gases may cost more in the future. But this new approach will help meet the growing consumer demand for products made in a sustainable and climate-neutral way.

It is often said that those who run in circles never get far. In the case of resource efficiency, I beg to disagree.

Edited by Sharon Tseng

Fly high and far with Asia’s first fully solar-powered quadcopter drone created by NUS students
Sep 02, 2018

Aircraft that can take off and land directly without the need for a runway – such as helicopters and quadcopters – are attractive for personal, commercial and military applications as they require less physical space and infrastructure compared to traditional fixed wing planes. A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has achieved a major step forward in stretching the capabilities of quadcopter drones by powering the flight solely by natural sunlight.

A first in Asia, the current prototype has flown above 10 metres in test flights – higher than a typical three storey building – utilising solar power with no battery or other energy storage on board.

This solar-powered drone, which was developed as a student project under the Innovation & Design Programme (iDP) at NUS Faculty of Engineering, can take-off and land vertically without a runway. Constructed using lightweight carbon fibre material, the quadcopter drone weighs only 2.6 kg, and has a surface area of about 4 sqm. It is fitted with 148 individually characterised silicon solar cells and supported by a frame equipped with four rotors.

A major aviation feat

Rotary winged aircraft are significantly less efficient at generating lift compared to their fixed wing counterparts. Hence, while there have been examples of solar airplanes in recent years, a viable 100 per cent solar rotary aircraft that can take-off and land vertically remains a major engineering challenge to date.

“Our aircraft is extremely lightweight for its size, and it can fly as long as there is sunlight, even for hours. Unlike conventional quadcopter drones, our aircraft does not rely on on-board batteries and hence it is not limited by flight time. Its ability to land on any flat surface and fly out of the ground effect in a controlled way also makes it suitable for practical implementation,” said Associate Professor Aaron Danner from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, who supervised the project.

The solar-powered quadcopter drone can be controlled by remote control or programmed to fly autonomously using a GPS system incorporated into the aircraft. The aircraft can potentially be used as a ‘flying solar panel’ to provide emergency solar power to disaster areas, as well as for photography, small package delivery, surveillance and inspection. Batteries can be incorporated to power the aircraft when there is no sunlight or for charging to take place during flight to enable operation when it is cloudy or dark. Other hardware such as cameras can also be included for specific applications.

Since 2012, eight NUS student teams have made successive design improvements and worked towards a fully-solar powered aircraft under the supervision of Assoc Prof Danner, who also holds a joint appointment at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS. The first solar-assisted quadcopter drone developed by students in 2012 could only achieve 45 per cent of flight power from solar cells and the rest from on-board batteries.

The latest team, comprising then-final year NUS Engineering students Mr Goh Chong Swee, Mr Kuan Jun Ren and Mr Yeo Jun Han, made further refinements to the earlier prototypes of the quadcopter drone. They eventually achieved a fully solar-powered flight with their latest prototype. The team members, who have just graduated from NUS in July 2018, were jointly supervised by Mr Brian Shohei Teo from the iDP programme for this project.

Mr Yeo said, “We encountered many engineering challenges when building the drone. These included finding an optimal number of solar cells efficient and light enough to power the propulsion system, which in turn has to be light and at the same time able to produce sufficient thrust to lift the aircraft. Other issues we faced included tuning and calibration of flight controls to enhance flight stability, as well as designing a frame that is lightweight yet sufficiently rigid. This has been an excellent learning opportunity for us.”

“To be able to make something fly under control for a long time is a very complex engineering problem. Our students have attained flight in its purest form, powered by natural sunlight. This is an amazing achievement,” said Mr Teo.

The team will continue to fine-tune the aircraft to further improve its efficiency. With these enhancements, they hope to bring the technology closer to commercialisation.

iFlytek AI Hospital is Ongoing in Anhui and Beyond
Aug 03, 2018

In the outpatient hall of Anhui Provincial Hospital of China, an artificial intelligent (AI) robot named “Xiao yi” is wandering around to assist doctors with making initial diagnosis for patients.

Artificial Intelligence Aided Diagnosis and Treatment Center, which is established jointly by Anhui Provincial Hospital of China and iFlytek, has been operated for almost a year since August 20, 2017. “Xiao yi” is one example of the AI programs applied in the hospital to help with medical cases.

LU Xiaoliang, deputy general manager of iFlytek, said, “I’m glad we chose to research on application of AI in the medical sector rather than medical informatization or internet-based medical treatment. We believe it can improve both efficiency and ability of the doctor.”

iFlytek has multiple advantages of high technology, such as voice technology, image recognition and natural language processing. Moreover, they recognized that medical problems root in the lack of high-quality medical resources which can be settled by AI through empowering doctors.

“Yun Yisheng”, meaning cloud doctor, is another clinical application of iFlytek in the form of APP. It integrates several systems including medical advice entry, image data examining and medical record writing to improve physician’s productivity.

QI Yinbao, a doctor from neurosurgery department, said, “ Yun Yisheng not only makes us more efficient by reducing medical record writing time, but also provides us a platform to learn by ourselves through reading latest research and comparing our diagnosis with intelligent diagnosis. Besides, it has high security level to prevent data from divulging.”

Image diagnosis cloud platform also enables Doctor QI to help rural practitioners remotely, and this is vital for speeding up diagnosis and preventing misdiagnosis in diseases concerning lung and breast.

The number of “Yun Yisheng” views by clinicians increased from 1500 in 2017 to 2260 in first half year of 2018 alone, in other words, there is an average increase from 1.15 to 1.5 per day, indicating that more and more clinicians are using this APP.

Challenges do occur as YAN Guang, the vice president of the hospital, put it, “It is difficult to establish a standard for Intelligent Hospital, but we are trying to make it according to the development of hospital and its classification. Furthermore, administrative obstacles should be overcome for the sake of the patients.”

LU Xiaoliang shared similar view, for iFlytek needs to develop related technologies as well as build up a business mode. “Government’s support is crucial for promoting the program”, he said, “AI medical treatment first needs to pass the audit standards, such as the standard set by CFDA, then it should be industrialized through a certain business mode, such as putting AI project into medical insurance.”

Challenges come along with opportunities. Since the establishment of Intelligent Hospital, the government has invested 3.8 million yuan and a team is formed special for AI application developing.

Besides Anhui Provincial Hospital of China, iFlytek is also cooperating with more than 100 third class hospitals nationwide,and looking for more in the future.

(Written by Mairebaha, Edited by GUO Jianjian, USTC News Center)

SOURCE / University of Science and Technology of China

NUS and SMI set up S$18m research centre to enhance global competitiveness of Singapore’s maritime and port industries
Jul 01, 2018

With the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) today established a S$18 million research centre to enable Singapore’s maritime and port industries to develop innovative capabilities and enhance their global competitiveness. The agreement to set up the new centre was signed today by Professor Chua Kee Chaing, Dean of NUS Faculty of Engineering, and Mr Toh Ah Cheong, Executive Director of SMI.

The new Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports (C4NGP) will be part of the NUS Faculty of Engineering and it will work with companies in Singapore’s maritime and port sectors to improve their technical knowhow, efficiency and productivity, and prepare them for the next phase of global competition.

C4NGP will also work closely with companies to ensure that the Centre’s research and development efforts are aligned with industry needs. Over the next five years, the Centre aims to focus on the following areas:

  • Design and build maritime systems, including simulation platforms that cater to the needs of maritime and port related industries;
  • Conduct navigational channel capacity studies and develop systems to simulate and optimise incoming and outgoing marine traffic;
  • Study various port terminal systems, including automated guided vehicle optimisation, scheduling and charging strategies; container yard storage management strategies; analysis of future port systems; and traffic flows within port terminals; and
  • Examine land transport-related systems such as port gateway design systems and analysis of inter-terminal traffic movement between port terminals.
    At steady state, C4NGP is expected to have about 20 NUS researchers working on projects in these important areas.

    Professor Freddy Boey, NUS Senior Vice President (Graduate Education & Research Translation), said, “NUS is delighted to partner MPA and SMI to set up this new Centre of Excellence. The C4NGP will work closely with the industry to promote innovation in the port and maritime sectors and to co-create cutting-edge solutions that could advance these sectors. This concerted effort will greatly enhance the long-term competitiveness of the maritime and port industries, and further strengthen Singapore’s strong reputation as a global maritime hub.”

    Mr Toh said, “We are pleased to support the establishment of the C4NGP to deepen NUS’ capabilities in port modelling and simulation and to promote greater collaboration between the academia and the port community to increase the overall competitiveness of the maritime and port sectors.”

    “The establishment of C4NGP is timely as it deepens our port modelling, simulation and optimisation capabilities. The centre aims to improve the planning and operations of our Next-Generation Port at Tuas and the eco-system around the port. It will help PSA and Jurong Port with the optimisation of their existing and future operations as part of the Industry Transformation Map. Beyond our ports, we hope C4NGP can be a good repository of modelling expertise as well as serve as a platform for collaboration with institutions across the world to develop and establish standards for port modelling and simulation”, said Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA.

    The C4NGP Governing Board chaired by Prof Boey will comprise members from key stakeholders such as MPA, SMI and industry partners. The Centre will be jointly led by Associate Professor Chew Ek Peng and Associate Professor Lee Loo Hay from the Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Management at NUS Faculty of Engineering.

    Assoc Prof Chew said, “The Centre aims to make significant impact to the port community, both locally and globally. We will work closely with industry partners and apply our expertise in modelling, simulation and optimisation to create next-generation ports and maritime systems as well as pioneer disruptive technologies that could potentially reshape the shipping industry.”

    This is one of the latest maritime research centres supported by SMI as part of its efforts to deepen research capabilities while developing a steady pool of quality maritime researchers in Singapore.

    SOURCE / the National University of Singapore

    These Countries have the Greatest Density of Robot Workers
    Apr 25, 2018

    The usage of robot workers continues to rise. According to a report from International Federation of Robotics, South Korea has the highest density of automation in the world. On the other hand, Taiwan ranked 4th among the Asian countries.

    Industrial robots are no longer preserved for a select few companies. And they aren’t so much coming: they have now fully arrived. Between 2015 and 2016, the average number of robot workers globally increased from 66 units per 10,000 human workers to 74.

    This density shows no signs of slowing according to data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), that reveals the number of installed industrial robots within the global manufacturing industry in 2016.

    South Korea had 631 robots per 10,000 human workers, the most of any nation. The IFR says this is thanks largely to the installation of a high volume of robots - particularly in the electrical/electronics and automotive industries.

    Singapore follows, with 488 installed robots for every 10,000 people. Roughly 90% of robots in Singapore are installed in the electronics industry, IFR says.

    Germany is Europe’s most automated country, ranking third worldwide. It has 309 robot workers per 10,000 people. According to the IFR, Germany also accounted for 41% of total robot sales in Europe in 2016, with supply expected to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2020.

    How the Continents Compare

    A number of other European countries also had far more robot workers than the global average. Sweden had 223 robots, Denmark had 211, Italy and Belgium had 185 and 184, respectively.

    The United Kingdom, however, was the only major G7 economy with fewer robots (71) per 10,000 workers than the global average in 2016. The IFR says in the UK, industry is in need of investment to modernize and increase productivity. “The low robot density rate is indicative of this fact,” it says.

    In eastern Europe, including Slovenia (137 units) and Slovakia (135 units), robot densities are increasing. In the Czech Republic, which had 101 robots per 10,000 workers, the fast-growing economy means plant owners are increasingly turning to machines.

    Speaking in the New York Times, Zbynek Frolik, whose company, Linet, makes state-of-the-art hospital beds, said the company has struggled to employ enough humans.

    “We’re trying to replace people with machines wherever we can,” he says.

    What’s more, a recent report by global management consultants McKinsey predicts more than a fifth of the global labour force - or 800 million workers - could lose their jobs because of automation.

    While these might be extreme examples, and the realization of a fear many workers have about the advance of automation, the number of robotic workers is only likely to increase in the coming years.

    North America

    In the United States, the world’s largest economy, robot density surged in 2016 to 189 installations per 10,000 workers.

    According to the IFR, the main driver impacting growth was the trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing “at home”.

    South of the border, Mexico had 33 robot workers per 10,000 people. This is despite it being a automotive production hub that predominantly exports to the United States.


    And while South Korea and Singapore lead the global and Asian markets in terms of installations, China has also seen a surge in robot worker numbers. Although it had just 68 units per 10,000 people in 2016, this was almost triple the number in had three years earlier (25).

    The government intends to continue this growth, pledging to break into the world’s top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020. By then, its robot density is targeted to rise to 150 units, IFR says. Furthermore, the aim is to sell a total of 100,000 domestically produced industrial robots by 2020.

    Junji Tsuda, president of the IFR, says: “Robot density is an excellent standard for comparison in order to take into account the differences in the automation degree of the manufacturing industry in various countries.As a result of the high volume of robot installations in Asia in recent years, the region has the highest growth rate. Between 2010 and 2016, the average annual growth rate of robot density in Asia was 9%, in the Americas 7% and in Europe 5%”

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    Asia Pacific Marketers Focused on AI and Digital Skills
    Mar 08, 2018

    Hong Kong — 8 March 2018 --( ASIA TODAY )-- Adobe and Econsultancy have released the “Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2018 Digital Trends report”, which provides insights into the state of digital marketing and the trends shaping the industry. This year’s report uncovers distinct differences between Asia Pacific (APAC) marketers and their North American and European counterparts, particularly with regard to adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and investment in digital skills.

    Investment and integration of technology is key to business success
    Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends report found that globally, top-performing companies are more than twice as likely to be using AI for marketing (28% vs. 12%). This aligns with Adobe’s “Future of Work: APAC Study” which found that organizations investing in workplace technology are more likely to be successful. Despite this, the Digital Trends report found that less than one in five global respondents (15%) said their companies are pushing forward with AI and nearly half of respondents (48%) said their organization has inconsistent integration between technologies.

    While half (51%) of North American marketers see “no perceived need” for AI, only a third (38%) of APAC marketers share this sentiment. Furthermore, APAC respondents (16%) were more likely to have an integrated, cloud-based technology stack, compared to their North American (10%) and European (9%) counterparts. This indicates that APAC marketers are ahead of their global counterparts when it comes to leveraging the power of new technologies to automate the delivery of personalised content, empowering them to work smarter and faster.

    Paula Parkes, Senior Director, APAC Enterprise Marketing said, “Rapid economic development and unprecedented growth have positioned APAC at centerstage of the disruption being created by new, digital technologies. In the current Experience Business era, smart organizations are investing in disruptive technologies to drive productivity and deliver compelling experiences for customers.”

    Personalised experiences continue to drive quantifiable uplift for companies
    Optimization of the customer experience is the top priority for marketers in 2018 according to Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends report, with a fifth (19%) of global respondents saying it is the most exciting opportunity. APAC marketers are focusing on making the experience as personalised and relevant as possible, whereas North American and European respondents said their main focus is on making the experience as valuable as possible.

    Organizations with “well-designed user journeys that facilitate clear communication and a seamless transaction” are 57% more likely to be exceeding their business goals. Meanwhile, organizations with a “cross team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives” are nearly twice as likely to exceed their top 2017 business goal. Yet, over a third (38%) of global respondents still do not have a cohesive plan, long-term view and executive support for the future of their customer.

    “Our research reveals a clear opportunity gap for businesses looking to set themselves apart from their competitors. Producing engaging and personalised content at an ever-increasing velocity has now become a business mandate. To help businesses adapt to the evolving expectations of their customers, Adobe supports seamless workflows between creatives, marketers and data analysts in Adobe Experience Manager, empowering brands to consistently deliver outstanding digital experiences,” continued Parkes.

    Investment in digital skills and education pays dividends
    Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends report revealed that companies that are “combining digital marketing skills with technology,” are nearly twice as likely to have surpassed their 2017 business goals by a significant margin (20% vs. 11%). However, the intended level of investment in digital training for 2018 differs greatly by region. APAC marketers are more than twice as likely than their North American counterparts to invest in digital skills and education (34% vs. 16%), while those in Europe fall in the middle (25%).

    “Significant investment in digital skills and training is directly linked with high business performance. While investment in technology is crucial, organizations must also invest in the skills and education to ensure their employees are capable of using these new tools to create outstanding customer experiences,” concluded Parkes.

    The full “Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2018 Digital Trends” report can be downloaded here.

    About “Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2018 Digital Trends”
    Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends report, published in association with Adobe, is based on a global survey of 12,795 digital marketing and ecommerce professionals across EMEA (6,724), North America (1,951) and Asia Pacific (4,120). Now in its eighth year, the Digital Trends survey aims to uncover key trends in the digital industry that help marketers launch the new year with fresh thinking and context.

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    About Adobe
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    © 2018 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved. Adobe and the Adobe logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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    Drop me a drone
    Mar 01, 2018

    The Skyways Project, a collaboration between NUS and global aerospace giant Airbus Helicopters (Airbus) which aims to develop an aerial drone delivery system for dense urban environments, showed off its steady progress on 8 February as a drone took to the skies at NUS, successfully completing its first flight demonstration.

    Project Skyways aligns with NUS’ vision of serving as a living lab to pilot innovative technologies and solutions. The NUS community is very excited to be the first in Singapore to experience this novel concept of parcel delivery by drones — an endeavour that could redefine urban logistics.

    Now at an advanced stage of development, the project will soon see users be able to drop off a small parcel at dedicated stations where a drone will collect and deliver it autonomously to the chosen destination via programmed air corridors. The parcel will be placed in a locker and the recipient notified that it is ready for collection. Trials are expected to commence across the NUS Kent Ridge campus in the first half of 2018.

    “Project Skyways aligns with NUS’ vision of serving as a living lab to pilot innovative technologies and solutions. The NUS community is very excited to be the first in Singapore to experience this novel concept of parcel delivery by drones — an endeavour that could redefine urban logistics,” said Professor Ho Teck Hua, NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost.

    Helping to get the project off the ground was Year 3 NUS Mechanical Engineering student Kiora Tandjono, who was involved in the design and conceptual stage as an intern with Airbus from July to December 2017. Kiora was given the arduous task of designing a mechanism that allowed the drone to be propped up for maintenance work. Later, she helped to design the parcel delivery station, drawing on calculation theories she had learnt in school to ensure her designs “didn’t fail, or failed at the right time”. The experience taught her many real-life skills, including points to consider when looking at cost of production and lead time, as well as how to deal with different groups of people such as suppliers and manufacturers.

    “I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity. The people at Airbus took us very seriously, which is why the experience was so valuable. We knew that they could do the designing themselves but they let us do it even though it took more time and several rounds of refining…It was an amazing feeling to come back and see that my design — which was just a drawing a while ago — has been actualised; it’s a real thing now!” said Kiora excitedly.

    Alphonsus Tay began his six-month internship with the company in January 2018, picking up where Kiora’s team left off and working on assembly of the drones. After dabbling in robotics at a small outfit during a prior summer break and keen on a career in research and development, Alphonsus looked to Airbus to see what it would be like to work in a larger corporation.

    “We learnt a fair bit about managing the assembling processes here. In school we do a lot of experiments but here we had the chance to try things we don’t always get to do in school, like surface treatment for materials and soldering of wires,” said the Year 3 NUS Mechanical Engineering student, who is also part of the Faculty’s Innovation & Design Programme.

    He added that he was encouraged by the possibilities of the Skyways Project. “I feel that the Project is far-sighted and could ultimately have many applications beyond delivering parcels. It could be used to deliver medical supplies from one hospital to another, for example.”

    Three other students from NUS Engineering have contributed to the Skyways Project as interns since 2017, taking evening modules in NUS while working full-time with Airbus.

    Skyways Project Lead Mr Leo Jeoh said that the drone delivery system was an important step up in Airbus’ innovation ambitions of urban air mobility and that internships were a win-win situation — giving the students exposure while helping to grow the future talent pool with the skills needed to feed into the company’s vision.

    “When they come here, they’re not just interns, they’re engineers. We hope we can get them to understand what it feels like to be engineers involved in designing air vehicles,” said Mr Jeoh.

    For this, he said, it is really about aptitude and attitude. “With these two, and solid engineering fundamentals, you can be a really good engineer. Certainly these interns had a great attitude going in and have shown great aptitude as well in applying what they’ve learnt. It’s not easy to undergo experiential training. It’s not easy to really grasp the fundamentals and run with it, but they have managed to do it,” said Mr Jeoh.

    SOURCE / National University of Singapore

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    Opening ceremony of AIS&D marks a milestone achievement in AI development
    Mar 01, 2018

    The launch of the AI service and data center (AIS&D) on December 26, 2017 confirms the position of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) as a leader in the field of artificial intelligence. This latest development is the most recent in a proud history: in 1934, the students of the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering successfully built a counting robot; eighty-three years later, the establishment of the AIS&D is a bold declaration of the university’s ongoing commitment to AI research and applications. As the bellwether in the AI field, NCKU has further extended its reach by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Tainan City Government regarding smart city development.

    At the opening ceremony, the AI self-driving car built by NCKU was exhibited outside the venue. With the exception of the auto-body, the creation of this vehicle, including all technologies and applications of artificial intelligence, comprising the sensory devices, judgment and decision-making, driving control, and systemic integration, was achieved by the NCKU-based multidisciplinary team. Vehicle dynamics will be tested at the Guiren campus next year. In commemoration of NCKU’s robotic achievements in 1934, the students of the Department of Mechanical Engineering created a voice-controlled counting robot using industrial waste, with the aim of counting the visitors to the anniversary exposition.

    AIS&D has allocated TWD 7 million dollars to the “super computer,” or NVIDIA DGX-1 GPU, which is targeted at the in-depth learning and accelerated analysis of artificial intelligence. Its computing performance equals that of 250 traditional servers, with a total bandwidth of
    DGX-1, and speed of 768GB per second.

    The AIS&D was founded to provide AI services and assistance to all departments of the university as well as conduct its own AI research through industry-government-academia collaboration and big-data analysis. Relevant curriculum will be provided in the near future.

    The R&D director, Sun-Yuan Hsieh, spoke of the three core missions of AIS&D. The center is intended first to provide support for the university’s AI research and development, including intelligent manufacturing, intelligent robots, intelligent aquaculture, and intelligent healthcare. Second, the AIS&D is initiating a collaborative project with Tainan City Government to address the issues of a smart city, digital governance, civil servants’ professional empowerment and big-data analysis. Third, the AIS&D will concentrate on using and analyzing the big data collected for NCKU’s smart campus, in order to improve the environment for both educational and research functions.

    The dean of EECS, Wei-Chou Hsu, pointed out that all the colleges of NCKU have been making concerted effort to employ artificial intelligence in various fields, such as intelligent manufacturing, self-driving cars, detection of mycobacterium tuberculosis, analysis of orchid breeding and greenhouse growing systems, long-term care robots, and financial technologies. In short, the AIS&D will not only reap academic results, but also offer valuable help to the industrial and public sectors.

    The president of NCKU, Huey-Jen Su, current acting mayor of Tainan, Meng-Yen Lee, and the abovementioned Sun-Yuan Hsieh, and Wei-Chou Hsu jointly participated in the opening ceremony of AIS&D. Shortly afterward, Su and Lee signed the MOU regarding smart-city development. Su stated that the founding of AIS&D serves as a gateway toward improved quality of life for the citizens of Tainan, as well as increased productivity in its industries. Lee stressed the transformative power of artificial intelligence, adding that the intended smart-city cooperation will likely lead to increased employment opportunities in Tainan.

    SOURCE / National Cheng Kung University Taiwan

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    What Makes S. Korea and Sweden the Most Innovative Countries in the World
    Feb 19, 2018

    South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world, according to a league table covering everything from the concentration of tech companies to the number of science and engineering graduates.

    The index on innovative countries highlights South Korea’s position as the economy whose companies filed the most patents in 2017.

    Bloomberg, which compiles the index based on data from sources including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, credits South Korea’s top ranking to Samsung.

    The electronics giant is South Korea’s most valuable company and has received more US patents than any company other than IBM since the start of the millennium. This innovation trickles down the supply chain and throughout South Korea’s economy.

    Sweden in second place is fast gaining a reputation as Europe’s tech start-up capital.

    The Scandinavian country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and its capital is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to the number of “unicorns” – billion-dollar tech companies – that it produces per capita.

    Education Hinders the US

    The US dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index, for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled.

    Bloomberg attributed its fall to 11th place from ninth last year largely to an eight-spot slump in the rating of its tertiary education, which includes an assessment of the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labour force. The US is now ranked 43 out of 50 nations for “tertiary efficiency”. Singapore and Iran take the top two spots.

    The US’ ranking marks another setback for its higher education sector’s global standing in recent months: in September it was revealed neither of the world’s top two universities were considered to be American. Those honours went to the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge universities respectively.

    In addition to the US’ education slump in the innovation index, Bloomberg claims the country also lost ground when it came to value-added manufacturing. The country is now ranked in 23rd place, while Ireland and South Korea take the top two spots.

    Despite these setbacks, the Bloomberg Innovation Index still ranks the US as number 1 when it comes to its density of tech companies. The US is also second only to South Korea for patent activity.

    These rankings may explain the disparity between Bloomberg’s list of innovative countries and the World Economic Forum’s own list of the 10 most innovative economies.

    Under this ranking, compiled as part of The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, the US is listed as the second most innovative country in the world after Switzerland.

    The US’ inclusion in this league table, and South Korea’s exclusion, are the two most notable differences between the different rankings.

    Other than these nations, the majority of countries included in the top 10s are the same in both lists.

    Tech Titan Israel

    One nation to feature prominently in both innovation rankings is Israel.

    Taking third spot in the Global Competitiveness Report’s innovation league table, Israel is ranked 10th best country in the world for innovation overall by Bloomberg. However, its index also ranks Israel as number 1 for two categories of innovation: R&D intensity and concentration of researchers.

    Israel’s talent for research and development is illustrated by some of the major tech innovations to come out of the country. These include the USB flash drive, the first Intel PC processor and Google’s Suggest function, to name just three.

    Despite being smaller than the US state of New Jersey with fewer people, Israel punches well above its weight on the global tech stage.

    It has about 4000 startups, and raises venture capital per capita at two-and-a-half times the rate of the US and 30 times that of Europe.

    When it comes to being a world leader at innovation, it may simply be the case that you get out what you put in: according to OECD figures, Israel spends more money on research and development as a proportion of its economy than any other country – 4.3% of GDP against second-placed Korea's 4.2%.

    Switzerland is in third place spending 3.4% of its GDP on R&D, while Sweden spends 3.3%. The US spends just 2.8%.

    By John Mckenna

    - ASIA TODAY News Global Distribution

    Mutation in single rice gene cancels interspecific hybrid sterility
    Feb 12, 2018

    Joint press release by Hokkaido University, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and Kyoto University

    Scientists successfully employed mutagenesis to identify the gene that causes hybrid sterility in rice, which is a major reproductive barrier between species.

    Their success is expected to help elucidate the genetic basis of interspecific hybrid sterility, which is important not only for understanding the evolutionary biology of speciation, but also for improving crops for food production.

    There are only two cultured rice species: an Asian one (Oryza sativa) and an African one (O. glaberrima). The African species is tolerant to various abiotic and biotic stresses such as high temperature, providing a valuable source of genes that could be useful in rice production. However, the interspecific reproductive barrier stands in the way of using the African species in breeding programs with the Asian species. Plants obtained from hybridizing the two species yield almost no seeds when they are cultivated. This is known as hybrid sterility.

    To identify the cause of this infertility, Assistant Professor Yohei Koide and Associate Professor Akira Kanazawa of Hokkaido University along with their collaborators Senior Researcher Yoshimichi Fukuta from JIRCAS and Professor Yutaka Okumoto from Kyoto University focused on the S1 gene locus, which is known to be involved in hybrid sterility. The team created numerous hybrid seeds heterozygous for the S1 locus, which were then subjected to heavy-ion beam irradiation to induce mutations. The irradiation experiments were conducted at RIKEN.

    While screening for mutants, they found plants that yielded seeds, thus fertile, despite being heterozygous for the S1 locus. Subsequent gene analysis of the S1 locus found a deletion in the peptidase-coding gene called SSP. When the team brought the intact SSP into the Asian species by transformation experiments and crossed the transformant with the mutant, it regained hybrid sterility, showing SSP is causative. Interestingly, the transformation alone did not show sterility, suggesting that SSP is indispensable but not sufficient for hybrid sterility.

    The team then researched the evolutionary pathways of SSP and found that the gene is present only in the African species and some other wild species, not in the Asian one. This signifies the gene was acquired or lost in certain evolutionary pathways and maintained interspecific boundaries.

    “Our study shows the interspecific reproductive barrier can be overcome by a disruption of a single gene. Further research could help improve breeding programs and enhance rice yields to address food shortages in growing populations,” says Yohei Koide.

    Original article:

    Koide Y., et al. Lineage-specific gene acquisition or loss is involved in interspecific hybrid sterility in rice, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, February 12, 2018.

    Photo caption / Asian species (Oryza sativa, top), African species (O. glaberrima, bottom), and their hybrid (middle). The hybrid has husks but does not yield seeds.


    Assistant Professor Yohei Koide
    Research Faculty of Agriculture
    Email: ykoide[at]

    Naoki Namba (Media Officer)
    Global Relations Office
    Institute for International Collaboration
    Hokkaido University
    Tel: +81-11-706-2185
    Email: pr[at]

    SOURCE / Hokkaido University

    - ASIA TODAY News Global Distribution