The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (“HKUST”) and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (“HKPC”) today announced the establishment of the HKUST-HKPC Joint Research Lab for Industrial AI and Robotics (“Joint Lab”). This Joint Lab aims to develop innovative industrial technologies that can address the technical challenges being faced by the manufacturers and provide practical solutions with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technology, helping to enhance the productivity of industries in Hong Kong and simultaneously fostering intelligent and advanced manufacturing and industrial innovation and technology (I&T) talent development.
Prof. Tim CHENG, Vice-President for Research and Development of HKUST, Prof. Charles NG Wang-Wai, Vice-President for Graduate Support of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) (HKUST (GZ)) and CLP Holdings Professor of Sustainability of HKUST, and Mr. Mohamed BUTT, Executive Director of HKPC signed the agreement at a ceremony, marking the official launch of the Joint Lab and research collaboration between HKPC, HKUST, and HKUST (GZ).
The Joint Lab will be led by Prof. ZHOU Xiaofang, Otto Poon Professor of Engineering, Chair Professor from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of HKUST, as its Director, with Dr. GE Ming, General Manager of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Division of HKPC, and Prof. Fugee TSUNG, Chair Professor and Acting Dean of Information Hub of HKUST (GZ), as its Co-Director and Associate Director respectively. The Joint Lab will have its presence at HKPC Building and HKUST campus in Hong Kong as well as the soon-to-open HKUST (GZ) campus in Nansha, Guangzhou. This is HKUST’s first joint research laboratory with a statutory body in Hong Kong.
Leveraging on HKPC’s wealth of expertise and solid experience in the implementation of intelligent manufacturing and HKUST’s internationally-recognized and world-leading research competency in the fields of AI and robotics, the brand-new Joint Lab will collaborate closely on a wide range of initiatives to address real-world challenges for the benefit of Hong Kong, the nation and even the world. This Joint Lab is more than a research and development (R&D) center, it is a RYD (Realising Your Dream) platform to jointly explore frontier applications in the areas of AI, big data, data science and robotics.
Prof. Tim Cheng expressed his delight at the University’s partnership with HKPC. He remarked, “With our research strengths in AI, big data, data science, and robotics, HKUST is excited to apply our expertise in these fields and to bring value to the Joint Lab’s focused areas of distributed manufacturing, flexible production, and intelligent automation for manufacturing. This collaborative platform will engage our researchers from across different disciplines and from both campuses to address real challenges faced by local industries in AI adoption. The Joint Lab will further underscore our commitment as a leading research institution to catalyse technological innovation, for Hong Kong’s development and the advancement of society.”
Prof. Charles Ng Wang-Wai said, “This university-industry collaboration fully realises the opportunities presented under the framework of ‘Unified HKUST-Complementary Campuses’ to carry out ground-breaking research and develop cutting-edge solutions in AI and robotics with HKUST and HKPC jointly. This Joint Lab will also facilitate the development of student talent pool in the two campuses through internship and fellowship programme. With the opening of the new campus in Guangzhou in September, faculty and students on both campuses will utilize the complementary strength of the two campuses to carry out cutting-edge research projects with HKPC and other industry partners in advancing the Joint Lab research initiatives and supporting the development of Greater Bay Area as an international innovation and technology hub.”
Mr. Butt said, “This Joint Lab is a hallmark of the collaboration between HKUST and HKPC and we are thrilled to partner with HKUST by leveraging our unique strengths to empower industries with forward-looking technologies. The Joint Lab envisions a closer collaboration with all types of potential partners in driving AI and robotics development and we hope to see more useful and innovative applications that could tackle existing pain points of enterprises. We are committed to transforming research excellence into impactful and practical technological solutions for the long-term sustainable development of Hong Kong as a smart city and an innovative hub for high-tech development in the Greater Bay Area.”
According to the “Hong Kong AI and Robotics Technology and Economic Development Research Report” jointly released by HKPC and the Hong Kong Society of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in March 2021, 46% of local companies believed that they were making progress in AI and robotics technology application, yet 32% felt the pace was slow and only 17% would deem to have achieved or exceeded the expected target. Most of them had a clear and urgent need for intelligent technology solutions. A research lab on AI and robotics combining the strengths of an academic institute and a R&D center can help enterprises cope with emerging technology and industry needs.
The Joint Lab focuses on R&D of technologies covering four key topics:
- Industrial AI: Developing novel big data-driven AI solutions that can simulate and analyze the complicated production systems to facilitate flexible scheduling and remote manufacturing, and developing smart vision in factory environment for the detection of surface defects and geometric errors, as well as root cause analysis
- Big Data: Developing versatile sensors with edge-computing capability supported by stream data acquisition and analysis power for smart manufacturing applications, with the adoption of Internet of Things
- Data Science: Equipping software systems and robotics agents with effective visual interfaces to improve information understandability, feedback control and human-in-the-loop decision making with the smart use of Human-Computer Interfaces
- Robotics: Developing grippers for the food industry, autonomous systems for grinding and spraying for the hardware and plastics industry, and intelligent equipment for cleaning and inspection of facilities
An initial list of research projects to be carried out in the Joint Lab include:
- Defect inspection on surfaces of reflective freeform objects
- Small defect inspection
- Process mining for bottleneck identification root cause analysis
- Product design automation
- Deep end-to-end training from perception to control for high precision robot tasks
- Multimodal interaction: multimodal-aligned industrial human-robot interaction
This joint effort will also include an Internship Programme and PhD Fellowship Programme not only to advance the research initiative of the Joint Lab, but to give valuable practice and exchange opportunities to HKUST students and research support staff in pursuing a career in AI and robotics technologies, creating favourable conditions for promoting I&T and intelligent manufacturing in Hong Kong.
This Joint Lab collaboration not only signifies HKUST and HKPC’s strengthened capabilities in the above-mentioned areas, but is also a commitment to encouraging more interdisciplinary research discussions, strengthening cross-sector technology transfer and cultivating young talent with an aim to bring significant benefits to HKUST and HKPC’s researchers and also industries and the community with the innovative adoption of AI and robotics technologies.
About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (hkust.edu.hk) is a world-class research intensive university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science. HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. Over 80% of our research work were rated “Internationally excellent” or “world leading” in the Research Assessment Exercise 2020 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee. We were ranked 3rd in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2022, and our graduates were ranked 23rd worldwide and among the best from universities from Asia in Global University Employability Survey 2021.
About Hong Kong Productivity Council
The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) is a multi-disciplinary organisation established by statute in 1967, to promote productivity excellence through relentless drive of world-class advanced technologies and innovative service offerings to support Hong Kong enterprises. Being a key enabler and catalyst of innovation, applied technology and value creation, HKPC facilitates Hong Kong’s reindustrialisation empowered by Industry 4.0 and Enterprise 4.0, as well as to develop smart and green living applications for bolstering Hong Kong as an international innovation and technology hub and a smart city.
The Council is a trusted partner with comprehensive innovative solutions for Hong Kong industries and enterprises, enabling them to achieve resources and productivity utilisation, effectiveness and cost reduction, and enhance competitiveness in both local and overseas marketplace. It offers SMEs and startups immediate and timely assistance in coping with the ever-changing business environment, accompanying them on their innovation and transformation journey. Moreover, a variety of FutureSkills training are offered for enterprises to upskill and nurture talents with digital capabilities and STEM competencies to enhance their competitive edge.
In addition, HKPC partners and collaborates with local industries and enterprises and world-class R&D institutes to develop applied technology solutions for value creation. It also benefits a variety of sectors through product innovation and technology transfer, with commercialisation of multiple market-driven patents and technologies, bringing enormous opportunities abound for licensing and technology transfer, both locally and internationally. HKPC’s world-class R&D achievements have been widely recognised over the years, winning an array of local and international accolades.
For more information, please visit HKPC‘s website: www.hkpc.org.