This summer a new initiative will attempt to bridge academia and business world in mobile communication sector. Mobile and Pervasive Computing Institute (short MAPCI) will focus on distributed cloud technology – an area that combines software and communication technologies. The product of combined effort of Sony Mobile, Lund University, and Region Skåne MAPCI will be located on the same campus as Sony Mobile, Ericsson and ST-Ericsson and will be a part of Lund University.

Björn Ekelund is institute’s acting director. He was the one to write technical scope for MAPCI based on his experience and knowledge in the field. He and his colleagues made a bold step forward and tried to think where internet and communication technology were going to be in 5 to 10 years making it MAPCI’s research agenda. Björn Ekelund has revealed many interesting details about the institute in this interview.

– How did the idea to establish MAPCI appear in the first place?

The idea to set up a research institute appeared last fall fall in the context of layoffs that took place at Sony Mobile. Because Sony feels strong about this region and wants to ensure competitiveness of its operations here, there was a working group set up in order to search for new opportunities. The group consisted of Sony, regional government, Lund municipality and Mobile Heights. The decision was to set up some world class research institute in the area of communication. This is of the key importance for Sony as well as many other companies in the region that want to have a strong industrial base. It is a bold step from both technological and operations perspectives because we want to merge the industry and academia more closely together which has not been done before.

– Who will benefit from this project?

The project will create opportunities for many since the founders have different interests. We will involve professors, PhD students, master thesis students etc. There will be office space for startup companies. We also have discussions with a number of large companies in the industry and other universities who are interested in joining in as well.

– What kind of funding does the institute have?

Sony, Lund University and regional government of Skåne each agreed to contribute one third to the institute’s base funding which is projected to be 100 million Swedish kronor over the next 10 years. On top of that the institute will apply for various European and regional research grants. There will be a mix of projects, possibly with other research institutes. So total budget might reach 200-300 million kronor.

– What will be the structure of the institute?

There is an interim board of directors that runs the institute. The final board has not been appointed yet but it will be formed reflecting the funding. There will also be two leaders who will lead the institute together. Scientific leader will focus on academic research and innovation leader will have more of industry profile. And with the base funding that has been secured there will be roughly half a dozen of PhD students. This, of course, will grow over time as we apply for research grants.

– What are the major challenges?

We are moving into the area where there is not so much research has been done so far. We did a survey to find out about other research initiatives that do similar things in the industry. Surprisingly, we didn’t find that many. There is strong research at Lund University that forms a sound base. However, it is fragmented. So we want to take it further because there is a lot of stuff that has not been done before. It’s an opportunity to create new knowledge, new technology.

– When will the institute be set up?

The formal launch of the institute will take place on June 3rd. Recruiting academic personal is a slow process. We have started some time ago but we expect employees to be there in fall. Relevant research that is already taking place at Lund University will be moved to the institute over summer. There has been a lot of enthusiasm in promoting this project so I feel very good about it.

Indeed, it seems like the new Mobile and Pervasive Computing Institute has everything necessary for success: an excellent team, vision for the future and passion for the project. The recognition of missing connection between the business world and academia is also very timely. In the period when firms have to be engaged in the cutting edge innovation, connection to the world of academia will give them additional knowledge source and a base for exploring new opportunities. So best of luck to MAPCI and its founders!