SIRIUS: A vibrant hub for research-driven innovation

by Arild Waaler and Einar Broch Johnsen. From Annual Report 2016, written in March 2017.

Data is now everywhere. The mission of SIRIUS is to foster innovation that can enable exploitation of data across the industry. Set up at just the right time, as the industry is focusing on digital transformation, SIRIUS delivers innovative solutions that can effectively expose and exploit data across silos and thereby rethink the interplay between people, enterprises and technology. SIRIUS facilitates digital transformation in industry through a programme for scientific excellence.

In SIRIUS, academic researchers engage with technology developers and end users from the oil and gas industry. Here, foundational theory collides with industrial practice. The result is a creative chain reaction, which both makes the academic research more relevant and opens for completely new solutions that address industrial challenges. SIRIUS aims to go beyond purely academic research and become an enabler which brings such solutions out of the academic laboratory through enhanced product prototypes at partner companies and through spin-offs. This programme is expressed by the SIRIUS innovation cycle: the research activities in SIRIUS are driven by pilots targeting end users and innovation is a premise for the research questions we address.

Research in SIRIUS is project-driven and project-oriented. In fact, research in the Centre is organized as a portfolio of interrelated laboratory and innovation projects. For us, projects which involve both academia and industry have been an essential, motivating experience for the existence of SIRIUS. One such example is the EU FP7 project Optique. This highly successful project in the domain of knowledge representation, led by Professor Arild Waaler, reduces turnaround time to access federated databases from the range of hours to minutes. Another such example is the EU FP7 project Envisage. This similarly successful project in the domain of execution modelling and analysis, led by Professor Einar Broch Johnsen, enables service-level guarantees when services are deployed on the cloud. These projects, which can be characterised by outstanding international networks and tight collaboration between academia and industry, have led to potential breakthroughs in key scientific domains for SIRIUS and to current on-going efforts to create spin-offs.

Building on the successful project formula of Optique and Envisage, SIRIUS brings together a scientific consortium with state-of-the-art expertise across many areas of computer science to foster scientific excellence through outstanding projects. This expertise is organised in strands. The Knowledge Representation strand develops semantic technologies to access and integrate data. The Language Technologies strand enables the extraction of structured data from unstructured text documents. The Databases strand develops scalable database solutions for semantically annotated data. The Execution Modelling and Analysis strand develops model-based simulation and analysis techniques to predict the behaviour of complex systems, including resource-allocation. The Work Practices strand addresses the complex interaction between organization and technology. The Scalable Computing strand develops scalable solutions for computational infrastructure, including HPC and cloud. The Data Science strand develops techniques to extract knowledge from existing data, naturally complementing and interacting with the methods of the other strands.

Excellent research often starts by asking the right questions. SIRIUS is an enabler for innovative connections between state-of-the-art research and industrial challenges. In SIRIUS, we work with the real challenges as experienced in industry, rather than the academic questions perceived inside the laboratory. It is our ambition to move research out of this laboratory, by identifying new and relevant research questions in collaboration with the industry partners of SIRIUS. This allows us not only to do excellent research but also to influence the international research agenda.