Digital twins: towards a common Luxembourg approach

Published on 13/02/2024

Digital transformation is at the heart of innovation endeavours in Luxembourg, and several stakeholders in the research and private sectors are well aware of the power digital twins wield in shaping the next generation of digital solutions. The vision to build a digital twin of Luxembourg was initiated by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) back in 2021 to boost the country’s status as a centre of excellence in digital innovation. But rather than start a single digital twin project, researchers and engineers at the AI and Data Analytics Platform, which hosts the activities of the Digital Twin Innovation Centre (DTIC), are supporting the development of digital twins across various strategic domains, including energy transition, environment, mobility and smart cities and communities.

“Essentially, digital twins are digital replicas of physical assets, which require data and models, including AI and machine learning, as well as traditional, mathematical and analytical models to mimic the properties of the physical asset” explains German Castignani, Digital Twin Innovation Centre Manager and AI & Data Analytics Platform leader at LIST. “You must also integrate them into a set of services that allows different stakeholders to monitor, forecast, predict, simulate and even control the physical asset or system properties from a fully digital environment. We consider the nation-wide digital twin as a system of systems. One needs to start building digital twins of different national relevant systems and federate them in a common software architecture and data platform to finally achieve the national scope,” he elucidates.

Trusted research and technology partner

At LIST, digital twin projects span from the field of electromobility, to hydrology, microbiology, energy, construction, logistics, supply chain and many other disciplines. The research and technology organisation is also a strategic partner for digital twin projects on both the European and national levels. For instance, LIST is involved in EU-wide initiatives like the Acumen project, aiming to deliver a digital twin architecture for mobility-related problems. is another flagship project in which LIST leads a unique European Testing and Experimentation Facility (TEF) with concrete AI-driven pilots and services.

“Within the European research context, we are the only Luxembourgish partner operating a TEF focusing on AI for electromobility. One of the services we offer is digital twins for electromobility, allowing cities to model, in a virtual plane, their energy demand related to electromobility and different ways to compensate this demand, focusing on the use of renewable energies”. “Our goal is to connect AI innovators and public beneficiaries to promote the use of AI in the public sector, increasing its adoption and generating concrete business opportunities,” Dr. Castignani explains. As part of the electromobility project, LIST is collaborating with public partners including Luxembourg cities, as well as private players like charging station operators and energy providers, electric vehicle retailers, and fleet managers.

Several Luxembourg research players; including LIST, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT), and the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) are also working on a national excellence initiative supporting a data-driven energy transition, which includes the creation of a digital twin of the multi-energy system of the country.

A digital twin toolkit in progress

While in its early phases, the Digital Twin Innovation Centre is working on the conception of a common toolkit to which researchers can contribute data and models. The aim is to create a unified framework where different digital twin projects seamlessly interact.

“We aim at creating a toolkit to serve researchers, enabling them to focus on modeling aspects so they can demonstrate research results faster and easier” he mentions. “Currently, researchers invest resources in developing models, prototypes, and demonstrators, sometimes with limited impact. If we invest some effort in developing a common toolkit researchers can contribute to, we can intelligently go into a more efficient approach in which we could have a unique platform to demonstrate digital twin projects, potentially allowing for data reusage and interoperability among various models developed,” underscores Dr. Castignani. This is also aligned with the vision of iteratively building a nation-wide platform.

The DTIC’s mission is to assist researchers in finding relevant use cases for digital twin projects and supporting proposal preparation, as well as in building technological assets such as the toolkit. The organisation is still in talks with different partners to develop this concept.

Private-sector collaboration

Apart from digital topics, LIST is also active in other domains like material sciences, space resources exploitation, and environmental research. It is equally open to sharing its expertise with both Luxembourg and international firms, and welcomes SMEs, large enterprises and public stakeholders to explore data-driven solutions.

“We support companies in different fields to enhance their processes with AI and digital twins. We specifically accompany the companies in the local sector with digital tools that are adapted to their maturity level” he explains. One cornerstone of LIST’s R&D strategy is its relationship with the private sector. Various partnerships with SMEs as well as with large industrial groups are fostered by multiple collaborative agreements.

As a neutral player, LIST is fully independent when it comes to technology. It priorities open standards and interoperable solutions so that its partners can decide, with its support, which combination of technologies suits their needs best in terms of regulatory compliance, performance, scalability, ethics, and cost.

Companies with a substantial presence in Luxembourg can also be eligible for research, development and innovation funding, with several instruments available to facilitate collaboration between industry and research players. This could be within the scope of eligible European calls for proposals, industrial fellowships or local initiatives such as the Bridges programme, an initiative funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) that encourages international and public-private partnerships. And these are just a few options to explore in Luxembourg.

Originally published in Trade & Invest

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