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European Research Council Recognises SnT Radar Project

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Published on Monday, 18 May 2020

Prof. Björn Ottersten, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT), has received a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The PoC funding will be used to develop a product based on a novel radar system with research associate Dr Christian Hammes and research scientist Dr Bhavani Shankar.

The radar system design is unique as it allows movements to be tracked in a way that is extremely accurate, down to a few centimetres. Dr Hammes has an athletic background and in the course of his research work at SnT he realised that such a system could be developed for use in high-performance coaching. In sports such as pole-vaulting or gymnastics the slightest change in the position of an athlete’s arms, or any other part of their body, can be crucial to their success on the podium.

The technology’s potential goes beyond sports though. Promising use cases could also include the manufacturing industry, as slight changes in position can impact the safety of an employee working on a production line. These are only two examples of a variety of hypothetical uses that the team will use the ERC PoC to investigate. ERC PoC funding is meant to support researchers as they explore the commercial or societal potential of their research results.

“Receiving an ERC PoC grant underlines the success of SnT’s approach - to focus on doing research that fuels an innovation economy,” said Prof. Ottersten. “We encourage a spin-off culture at our research centre, and I am proud to be working with Dr Shankar and Dr Hammes as we continue to explore the potential of this new technology.”

A project is only eligible for an ERC PoC grant if the technology that is the focus of the project was investigated through a previously awarded ERC research grant. This ERC PoC project builds on Prof. Ottersten’s AGNOSTIC research project, which was awarded the prestigious ERC Advanced grant. It makes this the fourth time he has received an ERC grant during his career, a rarity from this funding body.

The aim of the AGNOSTIC project, which is still ongoing, is to combine two established models for signal processing using Artificial Intelligence techniques; in order to enhance the way such complex systems function. The research path included exploring new radar technologies, which led to the development of a novel, high performance radar system that would enable efficient target detection and tracking. Now, with the ERC PoC grant, the team will be able to conduct market research to determine the most effective way to turn such a technology into a business.

“The award is very meaningful for the future success of the project, as it gives us 18 months to really explore the product idea,” said Dr Shankar. “This should be enough time to have a minimum viable product and create a business plan that Dr Hammes is ready to realise.”

“At SnT, research is about building impact, and you get the biggest impact if you develop something for the market,” said Dr Hammes. “This is a significant grant for me personally as it will hopefully allow me to transition from academia to business with the support of the ERC, the University of Luxembourg, Dr Shankar, and Prof. Ottersten.”