Friday, 29 March 2019

Mirko Kovač Discusses Robotics Possibilities in Croatia

Mirko Kovač, a Swiss scientist and roboticist discusses the situation and the possibilities of developing robotics and this type of technology in the Republic of Croatia.

As Goran Jungvirth/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 28th of March, 2019, at the international DroneDays conference, which was held this week for the first time at the Zagreb Faculty of Electronics and Computing (FER), Poslovni Dnevnik spoke with Swiss scientist Dr Mirko Kovač, head of the Air Robotics Laboratory at London's Imperial College, as well as the newly established Swiss Robotic Centre for Materials and Technology.

This centre was created in conjunction with the London Laboratory, which Kovač also included in collaboration with FER's Robotics and Intelligent Management Systems (LARICS). Due to this co-operation that has been going on for several years, the Zagreb and London labs have received (EU Obzor 2020) the AeRo Twin project (Twinning co-ordination action for spreading excellence in Aerial Robotics).

How did this important co-operation happen?

I met Croatian robot-makers from FER about five years ago when I had a lecture in Dubrovnik. They're working on some good projects, interesting ones. They're part of a robotics society, a global community. Together we applied and received the European project AeRo Twin (Twinning co-ordination action for spreading excellence in Aerial Robotics).

What will that project enable?

The project aims to convey the knowledge of various groups in Europe. It's actually networking with leading robot scientists to share their knowledge and experience on flying robots and in that way, reach the top of the world's robotics. Within the project, various lectures will be organised as well as the exchange of scientists. I can hardly wait for the roboticists from Croatia to come to London to see what can be done in Zagreb. There will be plenty of practical work, not just theory. I'm very happy to cooperate with Croatian scientists and to keep track of what's happening in robotics in Croatia.

Why is Croatia so dear to you?

Well, I feel close to Croatia. My parents come from Croatia, I have many relatives there, so it's not just about the scientific dimension and interest, but also about the culture of the country that attracts me and the feelings I have for Croatian people. It's nice to be here, to come to where my parents come from and communicate with people whose mentality I like very much.

The Swiss have just built a Robotics Centre within the Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology because of you. What's going on there?

I'm glad that such a research centre has been set up with the aim of [undertaking] the futuristic research of flying robots to work in the buildings of the future. Here, we look at the symbiosis of such robots with people living in a certain space, to develop the robustness of the robots and materials that will increase their functionality and reduce any danger for people. The London lab provides knowledge of robotics, and the Swiss centre, the knowledge of suitable materials.

You haven't forgotten Croatia either, and the mentioned Aerial Robotics project - AeRo Twin opens up opportunities for the development of modern robotics in Croatia...

Yes, the project coordinators are prof. dr. sc. Stjepan Bogdan and Mag. ing. Ivana Mikolić. It's an important project for the future of robotics in Croatia, because, as I've already mentioned, it will enable the exchange of knowledge on flying robots and the mutual practical cooperation on the development of technology.

Is there any potential for developing a robotics centre in Croatia?

Of course there's potential. I think that will be more and more important for Croatia, how digitisation and robotics are being developed, and the strategies for its implementation. Robotics are the essence of this, and will become even more important in the development of artificial intelligence. Robotics can help everyone, and I think that there's great potential for this as far as Croatia is concerned.

When you say potential, do you mean human potential?

Yes, for example, FER has some very good students and has great potential to become a contemporary partner with other science centres in Europe. I'm mostly thinking of human and scientific potential, but there is also the [potential] of the country itself. Projects are growing in the EU and the situation for robotics is gaining traction. But infrastructure is still developing and that's where the chance for Croatia lies. Because Croatia has the sea, there is an opportunity for testing underwater robotics in various economic activities. It has a variety of nature and different terrain, a variety of topologies that can help develop robotic applications. Croatia has a lot of potential.

You were a robotics researcher at the world's most powerful universities, such as Harvard and Berkeley, while you got your doctorate at the Swiss Institute in Lausanne. How hard is it today to educate a robotics scientist, since everything is developing so quickly? You've been talking at Drone Days about the third wave of robotics in the economy. How does one track those standards and reach the top?

You need to be world-oriented for robotics. Yes, it's hard to keep track of it all because it involves the need to know about interdisciplinary science when it comes to robotics. There are many different concepts. Control engineering, algorithms for audiovisual processing, design, mechanics, material science, biology... all of these parts are very demanding even for themselves and it's very difficult to understand them in detail. Scientific collaboration is therefore very important for the development of robotics, because robotics integrates all of that knowledge.

So, a scientist in robotics must develop independently and specialise in certain knowledge, and then collaborate in teams with colleagues from other scientific disciplines?

Yes, that's a multidisciplinary area and collaboration is very important. Robotics is, by its very nature, collaborative, different teams perform different experiments, and then they share their results. That's why the aforementioned European project is important for Croatian robotics as FER scientists will be exchanged in London where they will collaborate with different teams.

How is your new Swiss NEST project progressing?

We're developing our team, it's essential to have cooperation and partnership with other groups from around the world. The biggest challenge is to find solutions for the integration of new materials. The materials are very important. We have a lot to do with the design of flying robots and the development of new autonomous concepts.

Since you live and work in London, what's your comment on Brexit? Will it complicate the co-operation you emphasise as crucial for robotics development for scientists?

There's a fear in the community that Britain will find it very difficult to handle Brexit. Science will suffer for this. The consequences are already apparent, but it's a relief that the top scientists are independent. All the partnerships I've been involved in are independent. British scientists will have to fight to remain involved in EU projects, not to stay isolated. This is a very dangerous situation, but it's good that Britain is investing heavily in the development of science and technology, such as robotics, digitisation and artificial intelligence. There are a lot of possibilities in the UK, but we will have to work hard to keep hold of the UK's cooperation with the rest of Europe.

Are you talking to Croatian scientists about the problems they face in Croatia?

Yes, we're talking...

And what do they complain the most about, what's the most problematic thing for the development of science and technology in Croatia?

I don't have a great deal to say about that, you'll have to ask them. I don't work here, so I don't have any of my own experiences on it.

What's the most important thing in your eyes for the future of robotics?

Multidisciplinarity is the most important thing. One can not think of just one area, but rather how to integrate various aspects of science and apply them to robotics. For example, for the development of my robot grasshopper - with which I earned my doctorate - I needed knowledge from biology and biomechanics. For robotics, everything is important and there's a lot of potential for all other branches of science to contribute to it. Robotics will become very important for the lives of all people.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

 

Click here for the original article/interview by Goran Jungvirth for Poslovni Dnevnik

Monday, 7 January 2019

Investments in Croatia: Ivanec to Become Home of Robot Assembly Hall

Investments in Croatia are growing in spite of the difficult investment climate which typically sends most would-be investors running for the hills, or just across the border to more investor-friendly climes. Ivanec, a town in continental Croatia, is due to see a rather large business investment which ties in with massive technological advancements - robotics.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes on the 7th of January, 2019, this is a 1.5 million euro investment, through which BGW obtained ownrship of 10,000 square feet of land on which the construction of an industrial hall and its accompanying area is set to begin this spring. The company BGW can currently be found in a hired space in a hall in Ivanec, and the company's office space located in Varaždin has become, as company director Kristijan Danjko openly says, too small.

"The fleet that we own, as well as all of the construction equipment, is too big for the current premises we have and which we've got on lease. We selected the city of Ivanec primarily because of the benefits it provides, land prices there, documentation support, and their very approach to us as investors,'' he explained.

At the Ivanec industrial zone, the plan is to build business premises of approximately 600 square metres, and 1,000 square metres of production halls. In the second phase of this investment, as was announced Danjko, on the very same plot they plan to build yet another business facility. "A meeting with the investment and competitiveness agency was held back in October 2018, where we were introduced to the possibilities of using the state incentives we're now planning to use.

As previously mentioned, the planned investment is worth just over 1.5 million euro, and Ivanec, their location of choice, is also set to benefit from the move, as was explained by BGW. Two other companies - BGW Electronics and BGW Montaža, will also be located on the new premises. BGW Montaža was initially formed in 2013 and is involved in the installation of robots, transport belts, and more, while BGW Electronics was founded in February 2018 and deals with electrical engineering in Croatia and abroad.

At present, both companies employ about a hundred employees, and their plans are to continue on expanding. This planned investment in Ivanec, much like all other similar investments in Croatia, is likely to bring not only economic development and work positions, but a concrete demographic measure to help keep Croatia's youth within the country's borders.

Make sure to stay up to date with investments in Croatia by following our dedicated business page.

Click here for the original article by Lucija Spiljak for Poslovni Dnevnik

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Startups in Croatia: Estonian Entrepreneur Gives Croatia Advice

Entrepreneurs and startups in Croatia often have a difficult time getting things off the ground when starting with their business here, with the country's notoriously draining red tape and a usually slow and outdated approach to everything, launching a business, company, or startup in Croatia isn't a particularly attractive thought for most. Despite that, many startups in Croatia are seeing the arduous process through to the end, and are succeeding. 

Just what can Croatia and Croatian startups learn from the wildly successful TransferWise founder?

As Novac.hr/Jutarnji/Gordana Grgas writes on the 15th of December, 2018, because of his ''robbing'' of the earnings made by banks on their faithful customers' money, this Estonian entreprener is being referred to as a modern day Robin Hood.

The financial and tech startup that he founded with his partner back in 2011, TransferWise, was one of the most valuable in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and was built on the foundation of offering a cheap and fast money-sending service around the world with the help of a simple and handy mobile app. Already holding 0.5 percent of the global market, transferring about 4 billion dollars per month, and having four million users, it's not doing too badly, to say the very least.

The brain behind the genius idea which is rubbing the banks up the wrong way is Taavet Hinrikus, 37, an Estonian citizen, and this past week he was in Zagreb, because in the meantime, he has gone a step further and become a business angel, entering into the development process of the promising Croatian startup based in Osijek, Gideon Brothers, which deals with robotics and was founded by Matija Kopic and Milan Račić, who he says are a fantastic team.

While Novac.hr talked with the Estonian in the Katran club, where the first industrial robot made by Gideon Brothers had just been presented with great enthusiasm, the talented entrepreneur was asked about just how he earned the title of Robin Hood, Nottingham's famous outlaw who went down in history by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Taavet responded with the fact that TransferWise ''returns'' the money to the people, which they would otherwise be forced give banks in hidden and sometimes very unfavourable exchange rate costs when it comes to international transfers.

"We've noticed that as a global problem and we've been able to find a ten-fold better solution for that than the existing ones," said Hinrikus, and this point was also the main ingredient of his ''recipe'' for business success in a lecture he had previously given to his young audience at the largest hall of the Zagreb Faculty of Electronics and Computing (FER). Among the students, all of whom are interested in startups in Croatia, were the minds behind the Gideon Brothers startup from Osijek.

''There's no better place in Croatia to start a technology company than FER,'' Kopić of Gideon Brothers told them.

And what exactly does Transferwise do so well to make it so popular and successful? The best description is probably the fact that it is the ''Skype for money transfers'', and they have succeeded in a world that has been, at least until now, ruled almost entirely by banks and their often unfair fees, these all-powerful banks have been ''wounded'' only by the likes of America's PayPal and Western Union, so far. They came to this business idea because they often sent money to Tallinn from London and were shocked and hindered when they'd see that they lose money each and every time.

''How we started is very simple. We're focused on applying new technology. And we're less greedy,'' said Hinrikus, adding that there's no real reason why sending money electronically should actually be expensive.

They're even anything from five to ten times cheaper than PayPal. Since last year, their services have also been made available in Croatia, and they are currently focusing on the further expansion of their business platform, and further remuneration for cash transfers. They currently employ about 1,300 people, several hundred of them are in Estonia, where both founders are themselves from.

Their success was initially driven by marketing, and they were rebellious against the "evil banks in London", as was recalled by Ivo Špigel, a Zagreb entrepreneur and the founder of Perpetuum Mobile.

Hinrikus's acquaintance with Matija Kopić from Osijek, who also also presented his own startup at the same London event, has gone from strength to strength. Both then won over investor interest with their performances and ideas.

Should Croatia dream of being like Estonia? Novac.hr asked Hinrikus.

''Of course you should. You need a government that appreciates the importance of technology, a government which thinks about how to make the government more efficient itself, and better for citizens with the help of technology,'' responded Estonia's answer to Robin Hood.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and Made in Croatia pages for more information on startups in Croatia, doing business in Croatia, Croatian companies, products and services, and the business and investment climate.

 

Click here for the original article by Gordana Grgas for Novac.hr/Jutarnji

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Robotics in Croatia: Osijek Startup Has First Croatian Industrial Robot

Robotics in Croatia is a growing trend, with the constant advancement of technology and innovation, Croatia is putting both feet forward when it comes to developing not only robots, but knowledge.

As Bernard Ivezic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 13th of December, 2018, one Osijek-based startup has successfully developed an autonomous robotic platform for cargo transfer and has since presented it to some major global players, names including Orbico, Atlantic and Tokić are now testing it.

The Osijek startup, Gideon Brothers, has thus developed the first Croatian industrial robot. What it involves is an autonomous robotic platform for cargo transport, within the scope of the ''warehouse of the future'' that is increasingly being used by the likes of Amazon and Alibaba, as well as numerous other major logistics and merchants.

It doesn't have a name, at least not for now, but the Croatian autonomous ''robo-warehouse'' has an enviable performance. It can work properly without interruption for 24 hours per day, every day of the year. Its battery allows it to withstand a shift of six hours per piece, and then when the discharged battery is replaced with full one, and the job can continue. It's also fast.

The new step forward in robotics in Croatia, which is also miracle of high technology in itelf, was developed by a team of five doctors of science and 26 experts in the field of hardware and software in Croatia. The robo-warehouse is also a very attractive business product. In less than two years since its inception, this Osijek startup has developed technology which is ten times cheaper and more powerful in collecting its environmental data than the type which is currently the most widely used - the LIDAR driving system.

One example of this are the systems used by Tesla motors in their cars and trucks. Gideon has upgraded LIDAR with its own solution that combines stereo cameras and artificial intelligence (deep learning).

When asked whether the robot has already been seen by some of the biggest global players, such as Amazon and Alibaba, Milan Račić, the co-founder and director of development of Gideon Brothers didn't want to reveal any specific names, while emphasising that they have indeed presented their product "to some of the world's biggest players".

What has been very openly confirmed is that the Osijek startup will target both small and medium-sized companies on a global scale with its product.

"Such robots enable small and medium-sized companies to boost their efficiency and come up to the scale of the same level of competitiveness in transport and logistics which only some of the biggest international companies currently have. Of course, the biggest players are aware of this and they're actively following this technology," Račić says.

Three companies, operating in more than thirty countries and having a massive annual income of over three billion euro, are the first buyers, more specifically, they're the first commercial reference of Gideon's robo-warehouse, which is a major boost not only to this startup in particular but to robotics in Croatia as a whole.

The use of various robotics in Croatia is on the up, and Milan Račić says their product will provide a competitive advantage for Croatian companies and will continue to transform them. Mladen Pejković, senior executive of the Atlantic Group, says that digital transformation is considered an important element for future competitiveness. "That's why we're very excited about the pilot project with Gideon Brothers in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics in our logistics operations," noted Pejković.

"The pace of change will only accelerate in the future, and our partnership with Gideon Brothers will give us tools in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics that will help shape that future," stated Branko Roglić.

Ivan Gadže of the large company Tokić said that in parallel with engaging the best people to help them realise plans to spread to other EU markets, they want to provide their employees with the very best tools to help them achieve this.

"Strategic cooperation with Gideon Brothers is seen as an opportunity to introduce smart automation into our business and we reiterate the success we've achieved in Croatia on the international scene," said Gadže.

Matija Kopić, co-founder and CEO of Gideon Brothers, revealed that along with Milan Račić, his new startup, Gideon Brothers has three other co-founders who have helped significantly in the development of the first Croatian industrial robot. One of those individuals is Josip Cesić, he is one of the authors of the most successful algorithms in the world for simultaneous localisation and mapping, which is based on stereo cameras.

Then comes Edin Kočo, who led in the design and production of robo-warehouse, and had previously designed and manufactured robots for inspection in nuclear power plants. Last but by no means least, the fifth co-founder of Gideon Brothers is Kruno Stražanac, who is a big data expert, extremely knowledgeable in data analysis and technical support.

Kopić stated that he is lucky to live in such an incredible age, because Gideon Brothers has managed to accomplish something that many of the previous theoreticians of robotics could have only dreamed of.

He points out that this success is a result of very strong support from both Croatian and foreign investors. "The support of our investors and clients confirms our conviction that autonomous robots equipped with visual perception will deeply and positively change our society," added Kopić.

In just two years, the Croatian startup Gideon Brothers underwent two rounds of investment. It received 16.3 million kuna or 2.2 million euro in investment from 21 investors.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia and business pages for more information on robotics in Croatia and much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Bernard Ivezic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Croatian Robotics Team from Đakovo Enters Final of International Competition

As Index writes on the 8th of December, 2018, a talented Croatian robotics team from the Josip Antun Ćolčić elementary school in Đakovo has been placed into the final round of the MakeX competition, among sixteen of the best teams in the world.

The members of the Croatian team, Ana Švegli and Iva Mijakić, under the mentorship of Tomislav Milanović, impressed all those present in China where the competition in educational robotics, MakeX, is being held.

The Croatian competition has been organised by the Institute for Development and Innovation of the Youth (IRIM). The aim of this, as well as of all of the other projects, is to enable all students in the Republic of Croatia to have equal opportunities participate in the development of robotics, automatics, and other needed programming skills.

The most successful Croatian robotics team from the national MakeX competition flew all the way to China, and this competition is otherwise IRIM's most extensive educational and competitive project to date, as well as the largest unified robotics competition in the whole of Europe. An afternoon of preparations now awaits the innovative young Đakovo robotics team, and tomorrow will bring the final round of the competition. Other teams are continuing on with technical challenges as an additional part of the competition.

"The tempo of the competition is very demanding, but our team is fantastic. Many of them are getting along well with the teams from China and from other countries, and here, we're (almost) an attraction, everyone wants to get a picture with the teams,'' wrote Paolo Zenzerović of the Institute for Development and Innovation of the Youth on his Facebook profile.

In addition to the competition itself, the presentation of Makeblock products was also held today, and the Croatian robotics team played around with a laser cutter and made a personalised Croatian Makers bear, they also got to see a fully functional wooden mBot robot.

Make sure to stay up to date with our dedicated Made in Croatia and lifestyle pages for more on Croatia's young talent, as well as on domestic innovation and technology.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Croatian Robot ''Pepper'' is Main Attraction of European Researchers' Night in Pula

Pepper the Croatian robot graced Pula with her presence.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Croatian Robots to be Presented at International Workshop in Biograd na Moru

Croatian robots are set to aid marine research.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Croatian ''Neurosurgeon'' Robot Awaits Certification

There is large potential partner interest in two major European cities, Düsseldorf and London.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Croatian Students Win 3 Gold Medals at World's Biggest Robotics Competition

A total of nine Croatian teams participated in RoboCup 2017 in Japan

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Croatian Makers: Moving From 1991 to 2031

The story of Rajić village should be the story of Croatia: from “Where were you in 1991?” to “Where will my child be in 2031?”

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