Profiling areas in focus: World-class imaging expertise shared across academia and industry
Most of the information entering the human brain is visual because more neurons are dedicated to sight than the other four senses combined. People process and comprehend visual information easily, which explains why different phenomena are represented and studied in the form of images. However, imaging is much more than visualising phenomena for humans because increasingly many images are being handled by machines to enable revolutionary applications.
“Imaging is everywhere! It has a direct impact on developing autonomous vehicles, computer-aided and automated diagnostics, industrial automation and robotisation, and large-scale high-throughput safety-critical applications. Imaging allows us to see what cannot be seen, like the inside of our living bodies, or even distant black holes. It helps humans and robots to navigate, communicate, and make informed decisions. Imaging saves lives, educates, drives scientific discovery, and stimulates creativity,” says Alessandro Foi, Professor of Signal Processing, and leader of the TAU Imaging Research Platform.
The TAU Imaging Research Platform received a six-year PROFI6 funding from the Academy of Finland in 2021. The platform connects technology, health, and society by making a global impact with new imaging materials and computational methods. The platform’s primary goal is to create professional research networks and industrial collaboration around imaging expertise within the university’s different technology disciplines.
Imaging as a Service ensures quick access to the latest technology
The platform strengthens and leverages the already strong fundamental and applied research and education in imaging at Tampere University. Many research groups across different disciplines make use of imaging to develop innovations and applications of high societal relevance.
According to Foi, most of the platform’s PROFI6 funding is directed towards a postdoctoral pool of experts in imaging. Part of the work is to finance projects that advance imaging as a cross-disciplinary service (Imaging as a Service) at the University. This model gives researchers an easy access to the bleeding-edge imaging technology.
“Unlike conventional funding schemes, the primary outcome of the projects funded by the platform are not scientific articles, but new methodologies and tools that researchers can use in their present and future research. We are creating a culture where researchers can find new ways to utilise imaging in their work and learn from other people’s experiences,” explains Atanas Gotchev, Professor of Signal Processing and deputy head of the TAU Imaging Research Platform.
The platform also promotes research collaboration on ‘Light Transport’. One example of this is the coupling of advanced photonics components with computational imaging algorithms and efficient computer graphics rendering.
Dr. Lucio Azzari, with expertise in noise modelling, denoising, and general digital image processing pipelines, was hired as an imaging expert at Tampere Microscopy Center (TMC). His work facilitates developing the level of imaging methods at TMC far beyond the present high-level methods.
Furthermore, the platform promotes research collaboration with companies to improve their competitiveness, through initiatives like the recent Tampere Imaging Days, which were jointly organised with Business Tampere.
In Tampere many cutting-edge camera technologies are continuously introduced and refined by private R&D, Tampere University, and its spin-offs. A substantial part of these success stories is due to the effective collaboration of industry and academia.
Dr. Nataliya Strokina, Coordinator of TAU Imaging Research Platform, emphasises that it is important to share expertise from the academia to industry, and vice versa.
“We also offer support for entrepreneurial activities. TAU Imaging Research Platform will act as a facilitator and pivot between stakeholders, and it will actively support realising the full innovation process also by including relevant training events as part of the Imaging curricula,” Strokina says.
Together with three partner universities, the platform is establishing a multidisciplinary, European-level master’s programme focused on imaging. It should be available within a year or two.
TAU Imaging Research Platform
- Multidisciplinary research consortium that has been selected as one of Tampere University’s profiling areas in 2021–2026.
- Advances the progress of imaging technology and supports image-based scientific investigation.
- Finances projects that advance imaging as a cross-disciplinary service (Imaging as a Service) at the University as well as research collaboration on Light Transport.
The Tampere University imaging cluster also includes world-class research infrastructures: CIVIT (Centre of Immersive Visual Technologies), Computational Imaging and Digital Holography Laboratory, Tampere Microscopy Center (TMC), Tampere Imaging Facility (TIF), Tampere University Hospital Imaging Centre and TAUCHI Research Center for human-technology interaction. There is also much imaging expertise in the Tampere area outside the University, for example an imaging ecosystem coordinated by Business Tampere.
PROFI6 funding from the Academy of Finland
- In early 2021, the Academy of Finland awarded funding under its PROFI6 programme to help Finnish universities raise their strategic research profiles and further improve the quality of research.
- Tampere University received a total of €12.7 million for strengthening strategically selected profiling areas.
- Four profiling areas are funded in Tampere University’s spearhead fields of technology, health, and society:
1) Health Data Science
2) Games as a Platform to Tackle Grand Challenges
3) TAU Imaging Research Platform
4) Sustainable Transformation of Urban Environments
Read more on the Academy of Finland’s website.
alessandro.foi [at] tuni.fi
nataliya.strokina [at] tuni.fi