Leiria wants to be a hub for companies that invest in digital transformation

Rui Pedrosa, president of the Polytechnic of Leiria, in this area the R&D area and the fact that the companies in the region associated with the Polytechnic have projects related to cybersecurity, AI, IoT and 5G. Leiria also has a new technology-based business center at the north top of the stadium.

What are the examples of recent partnership projects between the Polytechnic of Leiria and private entities?
Due to its relationship with the Region and the business community, the Polytechnic of Leiria has since its origins a strong collaboration in R & D + i projects with companies. Between 2008 and 2018, Politécnico e Leiria was the institution of higher education with the highest amount of funding raised (more than € 13M) in projects financed under the QREN (SI&DT in Co-Promotion and Mobilizing Projects5) and Portugal 2020.

Involvement in projects with private entities ranges from projects for the study or development of processes and products to large-scale projects, involving dozens of partners, such as the various mobilizing projects in which the Polytechnic of Leiria collaborates with many national companies and in particular of the Region of Leiria and the West.

What is the added value of the Polytechnic of Leiria in the area of ​​Health?
In addition to training, the Polytechnic of Leiria, has multiple research and innovation activities related to the Health area. Training is mainly associated with the Escola Superior de Saúde (ESSLei) in various areas such as Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy Speech Therapy and Dietetics and Nutrition. There are also unique, more multidisciplinary offerings with the Master's Degree in Physical Exercise Prescription and the new Master's Degree in Design for Health and Wellness. In the scope of research and innovation, the ciTechCare Research Unit - Center for Innovative Care and Health Technology, a multidisciplinary research center, linking health to technology, promoter of new products and services in this line, stands out.

CiTechCare has its facilities on Campus 5 of the Polytechnic of Leiria, with physical and human connections to the Centro Hospitalar de Leiria and also has partnerships with the main public health institutions in the Region.
The ecosystem of Campus 5, centered on ciTechCare but with a strong connection to ESSLei, aims to function as a hub of health innovation for the development of pilot projects carried out in partnership with health care units and local companies. Taking into account the existing conditions and the investment that is intended to be made for the infrastructure, the objective is that this health innovation hub is an integral part of a Clinical Academic Center in the Region, which is a reference, regional and national, in the generation and rapid transfer innovative solutions, involving companies from the Leiria Region, for which the Health area is currently a strategic area for business development.

What are the specializations that have been most requested for the school to follow the projects of public and private companies?
Today, the Polytechnic of Leiria has approximately 13 thousand students distributed among the five higher schools and the capacity to attract students, nationally and internationally, has been happening in a transversal way. From the research point of view, the existence of research units in areas of knowledge linked to all schools has allowed a relationship with projects by public and private entities in many sectors of activity. As an example, the collaboration with local authorities, with the strongest economic sectors in the region, such as molds, polymers, the agri-food industry, tourism, the economy of the sea, among others, stands out.

Is Leiria able to become a hub for companies committed to digital transformation? What contribution can the Polytechnic of Leiria make?
The potential of the Leiria Region in this area is obvious. First of all, for the development of companies in the Region and for their consultation around this point. A sign of this is the work group created within the scope of the business association of Leiria, NERLEI, for the development of this area, in which the Polytechnic of Leiria has been involved since its inception and which was fundamental to the proposal for the creation of a new center technology-based business at the northern top of the Leiria Stadium, already approved and under development by the Municipality of Leiria.

Other important signs are the R&D projects developed in this area with companies in the region, for example for the creation of new products and management systems for the industry, as well as projects related to the areas of Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, IoT and 5G, among others. others, with application to areas such as the Molds and Plastics Industry, Health and the primary sector. These projects have had a transforming role in the business fabric and helped to further train the students and graduates of the Polytechnic of Leiria involved in the development of these projects and who often end up integrating the staff of the promoting companies.

Something we have seen more and more is the interest shown by many national and international companies in establishing themselves in the Region, the quality of life they can provide to employees and the wealth of the ecosystem that includes a higher education institution with a strong training in area. In this context, the Polytechnic of Leiria currently has more than 2000 students in the areas of TICE - Information, Communication and Electronic Technologies, offering courses at all levels, including the most diverse areas of engineering, such as Computer Engineering and Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Computers, but also postgraduate courses in partnership with the Attorney General's Office, the Judiciary Police and a professional higher technical course in partnership with Delloite within the scope of the Brigth Start program, as well as the differentiating Masters in Cybersecurity and Digital Direct Manufacturing . In this context, this year a PhD was accredited in association with the University of Minho in Digital Direct Manufacturing that directly links to digital transformation and the relationship with companies.

Can one day speak of a “Silicon Valley” in Leiria?
We currently have companies in Leiria developing worldwide highly innovative projects with high technological demands. Technically, there is no barrier for a company in Leiria to be a supplier to a French multinational or to the biggest Hollywood studios, as it happens today. Ongoing projects will increase visibility and critical mass in the Region, which will help to attract investments for increasingly differentiating projects. Leiria is a major industrial innovation hub where entrepreneurship and innovation are the region's major identity brands.

What role can the Polytechnic of Leiria play in supporting companies in terms of decarbonisation? Are there any projects in this direction?
I highlight, among many, some projects, such as S4Agro - Sustainable Solutions for the Agroindustrial Sector, or REINOVA - SI (Re-industrialization of the agro-food sector - Sustainability and Innovation), to launch new products in the agrifood sector, in response new trends in natural products, obtained through sustainable processes and the principles of circular economy and eco-innovation. The participation of the Polytechnic of Leiria in the collaborative laboratories SmartFarm and Built Colab are also directly associated with the development of projects promoting decarbonization.

In addition to partnerships with companies, what has been IPL's work in terms of pure teaching, namely in the internationalization of its courses?
The Polytechnic of Leiria already has a long tradition of internationalization, not only in terms of training activities and the mobility of students, teachers and technicians, but also in terms of development cooperation activities and international research and innovation projects. This process of internationalization and collaboration with international partners has been sought to grow in a consistent, sustainable and transversal way in all fields.

In 2014, with the creation of the new international student statute, the possibility of attracting foreign students to complete study cycles (Bachelor's and Master's) increased significantly, which increased the number of students from other nationalities and increased the multiculturalism of classes, schools , and the cities where the Polytechnic of Leiria is located. This multiculturality brings many opportunities and challenges, on the one hand, in terms of monitoring and continuous improvement of the quality of education and, on the other, in terms of preparing our graduates to work in an increasingly globalized labor market.

Are new master's degrees planned at the Polytechnic of Leiria? In what areas?
In the next academic year we will have three new offers, the Master in Gastronomy, the Master in Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing and the Master in Design for Health and Wellness. However, the gradual transformation of master's degrees into modular structures that promote requalification and advanced qualification are today a priority for the Polytechnic of Leiria and, in itself, an innovation.

What does it mean for the Polytechnic of Leiria that the European Commission has approved the application of the Regional University Network - European University (RUN-EU), led by the Polytechnic of Leiria, under the European Universities initiative, with the allocation of program funding ERASMUS +?
The approval means that the Polytechnic of Leiria is today a European University, leading the Regional University Network (RUN-EU). This is yet another determining factor in the affirmation of the Polytechnic of Leiria as a global and multicultural public higher education institution at the service of society, which trains its students with citizenship values ​​for the professions of today and the future. I reiterate that the higher education institutions that are part of the RUN-EU share a common vision and commitment, focused on transforming society in the context of emerging regional and global challenges and, in particular, for sustainable regional development.

What justifies the possible change in the name of the Polytechnic of Leiria?
The struggle and support of the region to change the designation of the Polytechnic of Leiria to Universidade Politécnica de Leiria are strategic. We are recognized externally as a European university, we will start in 2020/2021 with the first PhD in association of the country between polytechnics and universities, with the University of Minho, the PhD in Direct Digital Fabrication for the Polymer and Mold Industries, but Portugal remains to assume definitely the designation of Polytechnic Universities. It is fundamental for a national and international social perception of what we do and what we are.

The Polytechnic of Leiria made a recent study on habits in Portugal during the pandemic. What relevant conclusions have been drawn?
A study led by Raul Antunes, a professor at the Polytechnic of Leiria, recently published in the International Journal of Enviromental Research and Public Health, sought to understand the lifestyles of the Portuguese adult population during the Covid-19 pandemic. The study focused on the lifestyles of the Portuguese adult population during the pandemic, namely with regard to sleep habits, eating habits and levels of physical activity, as well as sought to understand the levels of anxiety and the perception of satisfaction of psychological needs during confinement.

The importance of identifying which groups may face the most difficulties in adopting healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, healthy food choices and sleep routines, was highlighted. Younger women and adults may need more attention because they seem to be doing less physical activity and due to the presence of higher levels of anxiety.

The results emphasized the importance of continuing to spread the message of being physically active during the pandemic, taking into account that interaction with the environment is limited.

It was also concluded that it is important to work towards creating strategies to promote healthy eating habits, not eating more or more often, but choosing carefully what to eat.

Does the school have any projects to be developed with a view to generating solutions to counter the effect of the pandemic on the region's economy?
The Polytechnic of Leiria was fully involved and committed, from the first moment, in the creation of the Economic and Social Office of the Leiria Region, to give a quick and effective response to the economic and social crisis caused by the pandemic. During the period of confinement and in the subsequent evolution, we always respond “present” to the multiple appeals we receive from economic and social partners. We will continue with this institutional attitude of openness, resilience and construction.

In what innovative projects, in terms of digitization, new technologies and social networks, is the Polytechnic of Leiria involved?
In addition to the aforementioned, I highlight the SmartOcean, the Sea Science and Technology Park, which aims to welcome companies in the area of ​​research and the economy of the sea, in Peniche and which represents an investment of more than 3,5 million euros. I also highlight the Industry Science and Technology Park to be created in Marinha Grande. Science and technology parks and technology-based business centers are strategic projects for the transformation of the region and have the involvement and unconditional support of the Polytechnic of Leiria. Also highlight the determining role of the Polytechnic of Leiria in the creation of the social innovation incubator (Leiria Social Innovation hub) led by the IDD incubator.

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