Putting technology at the service of society and planetary well-being: the main goal of DTIC-UPF’s new strategic research programme

The Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) is recognized as a Marķa de Maeztu Unit of Excellence, one of the most prestigious quality labels for scientific research in Spain. This morning, the Unit presented its strategic programme for 2023-2026, which prioritizes interdisciplinary research for planetary well-being.

This morning, on the UPF Poblenou campus, the Department of Information and Communication Technologies ( DTIC ) presented its strategic programme " Artificial and Natural Intelligence for Engineering and Beyond " for the period spanning 2023 to 2026. It will conduct the programme as a Marķa de Maeztu Unit of Excellence (MdM), one of the most prestigious quality seals for scientific research in Spain, which the DTIC obtained for the second time at the end of 2022. The main goal of the programme will be to promote research to respond to the challenges of global society in the 21st century, and in particular, and from an interdisciplinary perspective, to planetary well-being.

The event included speeches by the UPF vice-rector for Research, Cristina Pujadas ; the director of the DTIC, Vladimir Estivill ; the director of the DTIC’s Marķa de Maeztu scientific programme, Ąngel Lozano ; and the director of the University’s Centre for Studies on Planetary Wellbeing, Carla Lancelotti. To implement the MdM 2023-2026 programme, the DTIC will collaborate closely with this centre, entrusted with revitalizing the Planetary Wellbeing Initiative : an interdisciplinary project promoted by UPF since 2018 to provide the institution with a committed vision to tackle the main challenges facing global society in the 21st century in different fields (social, health, ecology, climate...).

Lozano introduced the first part of the event, dedicated to transdisciplinary research and internal synergies, in which researchers from different projects framed in the MdM program participated. The second part of the event, in which innovation projects linked to the objectives of the strategic program were presented, was introduced by the vice-director of Knowledge Transfer, Vanesa Daza.

The vice-rector for Research, Cristina Pujadas , highlighted that the DTIC’s MdM programme approaches technological research from an interdisciplinary perspective: "the challenges currently faced by society require the collaboration of multiple actors and, at the University, interdisciplinary research between different departments must be encouraged. This is where the future of science lies". Beyond the field of research, Vladimir Estivill added that one of the DTIC’s priorities, also included in the MdM programme, involves training and teaching activities. "As researchers, we must also introduce the new generations to scientific knowledge and research and involve them in the highly relevant debates that society, and the world of science in particular, has today".

For his part, the director of the DTIC’s Marķa de Maeztu scientific programme, Ąngel Lozano , recalled that, in Spain, the DTIC was the first department dedicated to technological research to be awarded the Marķa de Maeztu quality seal and that, so far, it is also the only one to have renewed it. Lozano assured: "the second edition of the Marķa de Maeztu programme will allow us to take another step forward to become more connected with the rest of the University and with the University’s Planetary Wellbeing initiative". Carla Lancelotti also thanked the DTIC for incorporating the objectives of the Centre for Studies on Planetary Wellbeing, of which she is the director, into the MdM programme.

An interdisciplinary approach to technological research

The MdM programme seeks to go beyond the DTIC’s areas of specialization, mainly linked to engineering or computer science, and take into account the interaction between technical, ethical and social factors. It will also consider the relationship between technology and natural intelligence and incorporate humanistic values into technological research. The DTIC will take advantage of the potential of belonging to a university that covers various fields of knowledge (political and social sciences, humanities, economics, communication, language sciences, medicine and life sciences...), so that collaborations with other UPF departments are enhanced. Collaborations with external organizations and dialogue with various social agents (researchers, public and private institutions, etc.) will also be promoted.

The vice-rector of Knowledge Transfer, Vanesa Daza , explained that the programme also aims to drive innovative actions to bring the outcomes of research closer to society. Meetings, seminars and training will be promoted, expert advice will be offered regarding policy decision-making, and the dissemination of technological knowledge and citizen participation in technological projects will be promoted. In addition, a training programme will be launched for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers to take advantage of the potential of their research through various avenues: open science, industrial exploitation and entrepreneurship.

The different lines of research of the MdM programme

Following on from the general presentation of the DTIC’s Marķa de Maeztu (MdM) programme for 2023-2026, endowed with 2 million euros, each of the more than twenty research projects included in this strategic plan were presented. They deal with the following themes.

Health: this includes several collaborative research projects in the field of health to develop predictive models for disease outbreaks or new personalized medicine or telemedicine solutions. Innovative solutions will also be studied to apply artificial intelligence techniques or data analysis and usage in the field of health, as well as to improve

Education and learning: collaborative research will be promoted into the development of intelligent learning environments, educational analysis and innovative technologies in this field. Issues such as personalized learning, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, and gender equality in education will be addressed.

Democracy and governance: collaborations in this area explore the application of AI and natural language processing to improve democratic processes, investigating technologies that enhance transparency or analysing processes that bring about such problems as misinformation.

Networks and infrastructures: in this regard, research will be promoted to develop the sixth generation (6G) mobile network and innovations in the field of the Internet of Things (IoT) or in machine-machine communication. The focus is also on sustainable and energy-efficient communication technologies, with special attention to global connectivity.

Detailed information on the DTIC’s Marķa de Maeztu strategic programme at UPF and the specific research projects can be found at: https://www.upf.edu/web­/mdm-dtic/ .

The Department of Information and Communication Technologies, recognized as a Marķa de Maeztu unit of excellence for the second time