Burgenland – a hotspot of building energy efficiency.

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After the Energetikum, the UAS Burgenland establishes two additional research centers, the Lowergetikum and the DSL² Living Lab. They will attract important research projects in the fields of IT security as well as energy and environmental management.

With almost 4,700 students from 67 nations, the UAS Burgenland is the biggest university of Austria’s most eastern state. The two campuses in Eisenstadt and Pinkafeld focus not only on training, but also on research. In our interview, Michael Roither, Vice Rector for International Relations, and Silvia Ettl-Huber, Vice Rector for Research and Innovation, detail how the UAS Burgenland plays a leading role in many important international projects in the areas of sustainable energy and IT security. Furthermore, the UAS Burgenland sees itself as an economic “gateway to the east”, and their students complete mandatory internships in Eastern European countries.

Info: UAS Burgenland

The campuses in Eisenstadt and Pinkafeld host about 250 employees and 400 external lecturers. The partner network spans the globe with 89 universities. The UAS Burgenland has strong regional ties to about 400 industry partners, with a focus on Burgenland and Eastern Austria. Currently, the UAS Burgenland offers ten Bachelor and thirteen Master programs as well as three continuing education programs and two international doctorate programs, thus giving students access to international PhD programs. Info: www.fh-burgenland.at

Box: The interviewees

Michael Roither of the UAS Burgenland is Vice Rector for International Relations and Head of Department of the “Digital Media and Communication” Master program at Campus Eisenstadt. Born in Salzburg, he has been at the UAS Burgenland since 2015. Before that, he worked as a journalist for the Salzburger Nachrichten and founded the eLearning Academy for Communication GmbH.

Silvia Ettl-Huber is Vice Rector for Research and Innovation, an administrative department of the UAS Burgenland management. Born in Upper Austria, she supervises the research goals and strategies of the UAS Burgenland and contributes to the continuing structural improvement of the frame conditions for research. She represents the University of Applied Sciences in matters of research and innovation and coordinates sponsorships of innovative student activities.

Vienna Region: How did energy and environmental management become the biggest research area at the UAS Burgenland?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: The origins go back to the 1960’s, long before the University of Applied Sciences was even founded. Even then, Burgenland had a technical college for building technology. When the UAS Burgenland was established 25 years ago, tying into the field of building technology suggested itself, not only with the energy and environmental management programs, but also with research activities. Up to the 1990’s, building technology exclusively dealt with the component of an energy-efficient house. Slowly, the perspective of living comfort was added, and today, the notion of sustainability is increasingly incorporated. Our research area has gradually expanded from mere building technology to beyond the building to a focus on ecology and sharing economy. In terms of building energy efficiency, the UAS Burgenland is definitely Austria’s leader.

Vienna Region: Five years ago, the research building “Energetikum” was established. What is your resume so far?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: Establishing the “Energetikum” living lab at Campus Pinkafeld in 2015 attracted attention far beyond the borders of our country. Living lab means that the building is used for research, but at the same time, it is also used in everyday life. The Energetikum is cross-disciplinary and covers the areas of building and energy technology, but also health. There are about 2,000 sensors which are mainly concerned with building upgrades. On the basis of our longtime experience in the areas of energy and environmental management and the Energetikum, we are involved in an above-average number of Horizon 2020 projects, making us the envy of many other Universities of Applied Sciences.

Vienna Region: Can you give us an example that demonstrates the Energetikum’s importance for international projects?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: The “IoSense” project comes to mind, which involves 33 partners from six European countries. This project intends to strengthen Europe’s competitive ability in the field of electronic components and systems by increasing the capacity of preproduction, which helps innovative microelectronics to reach the marketplace more quickly. The Energetikum allowed us to participate in the project because we can conduct experiments there for our industry partner Infineon which cannot be done elsewhere. The UAS Burgenland shows how to improve heating, ventilation and cooling of buildings via integrated sensors and intelligent gas sensor networks. This opens up new approaches in sustainable energy production, a lowering of energy consumption and an efficient energy management in future urban areas all across Europe.

Vienna Region: Within the next four years, a “Low-Ergetikum” will be established at Campus Pinkafeld. What makes this low-tech building special?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: This is our new, exciting infrastructure research project. While the Energetikum as a high-tech building is equipped with all the bells and whistles and, for example, allows the front to be exchanged and different warmth and shading situations to be simulated, the Lowergetikum as a sustainable low-tech building will exclusively do research on living comfort through mechanical measures. Sustainable buildings are characterized by the best possible living comfort for the user at the lowest possible costs, use of energy and impact on the environment. We intend to show that reaching this goal can also be possible with little use of technology. The Energetikum and Lowergetikum are located next to each other, so that researchers from one building will also work in the other.

Vienna Region: Does the UAS Burgenland have other sustainable energy research subjects apart from building and energy efficiency?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: In the “PVAdapt” project, a research group at Campus Eisenstadt focuses on the acceptance and collective usage of energy resources for increasing the efficiency factor of photovoltaic plants and heat pumps. This project also deals with the placement of these plants.

Vienna Region: Which are currently the biggest IT security research projects the UAS Burgenland is participating in?

Michael Roither: In the IT security research sector, we currently have various large projects which not only deal with data and data security, but also with clouds, environments and processes – the official term is Cloud and Cyber Physical Systems Security (CCPSS). There is, for example, “Productive 4.0”, which is the biggest EU-wide industry 4.0 research project with over 100 participating partner organizations. It focuses on the improvement of digitalization of European industry via information and communication technology and electronics as well as increased data transparency. With its CCPSS center, the UAS Burgenland is responsible for the research regarding digital automation, security and its costs. The research group led by Markus Tauber is doing excellent development work.

Vienna Region: The UAS Burgenland is currently establishing a new IT security research building. What are your expectations regarding this investment?

Michael Roither: It is important that IT security isn’t seen independently of economic processes and that, for example, we watch how automated processes optimize themselves. Such developments always have parallel effects on the economy. Therefore, research requires interaction with economic partners. In order to delve into this area and allow a stronger bridging between industry and research, we are currently establishing this new research building. With support by the EU and the state, we are building the “DSL² Living Lab” at Campus Eisenstadt, which will go live at the same time as the Lowergetikum. Its focus lies on cloud computing, Internet of things, industry 4.0 and digitalization. Apart from new synergies, DSL² will also create new jobs, and the international visibility of the research in Burgenland will increase even more.

Vienna Region: Can you give us an example which shows the current value of IT security research?

Michael Roither: An example would be the secure data transmission from the sensor to the cloud. This process plays an ever-growing role in various industries, even in agriculture. Indoor Farming is seen as a resource-saving alternative to traditional cultivation. The “Agri-Tec 4.0” project is developing an “Indoor Farming Support as a Service” prototype. The data transfer requires the development of a cloud and sensor infrastructure which allows the implementation of a multitude of sensors while guaranteeing the highest possible security.

Vienna Region: The UAS Burgenland also sees itself as a “gateway to the east”. Where does this strong focus on Eastern Europe come into play?

Michael Roither: The FH Burgenland is part of many international networks. Because of our geographical situation, we are closely connected to Eastern Europe, and this strong connection to our eastern neighbors separates us from other Austrian Universities of Applied Sciences, because we have been cultivating this contact from the beginning, i.e. for almost 25 years now. Therefore, the UAS Burgenland also offers “International Business Relations” as Bachelor and Master programs. There are not only contacts to our next-door eastern neighbors, we also have strong ties to more distant eastern states such as Russia and Georgia. We continuously develop our double degree programs, which are highly frequented in both directions. Students complete mandatory internships or go on exchange programs in Eastern European countries, while students from the neighboring countries come to us.

Vienna Region: What makes the UAS Burgenland attractive for students and scientists?

Silvia Ettl-Huber: One of the success criteria is the very innovative management and the establishment of Forschung Burgenland, a 100% subsidiary of FH Burgenland. Management has created attractive frame conditions for employees. For researchers as well as for professors and students, the short distances within the college are attractive. The environment is very personable, and there is as little bureaucracy as possible. This enhances the attractiveness for interested parties, nationally and internationally.