Supported and in part funded by the European Union (EU), the tech sector has flourished in recent years thanks to the development of a strong infrastructure for research activities. The Czech government has also proved willing to provide support when it comes to start-up initiatives, licensing and patenting.
One of the companies that has emerged within this fast-growing sector is CertiCon, which is involved in the innovation and development of software and hardware solutions for the healthcare, telecommunication, automotive and aeronautical industries. Established in 1996, it now provides services and solutions throughout the entire EU as well as in the US, Canada and Japan. Employing more than 400 people, the company works closely with a string of renowned universities and research laboratories throughout the EU, helping CertiCon to create products and innovative systems solutions that are used across the world.
“We are in touch with the leading universities in the country, the Czech Technical University in Prague and the West-Bohemian University in Pilsen. We also cooperate with the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. We try to get the best from these universities, not only in regard to alumni, but also by carrying out collaborative research,” explains Vladimír Mařík, Chairman of CertiCon. “We are trying hard to develop software based on the latest achievements in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and machine learning. We are always looking for innovative approaches which can be provided to our customers, who include Medtronic in the US, Airbus Group in Germany, Frequentis in Austria and Bosch in Germany.”
One development that has proved to be particularly helpful for clients is the use of artificial intelligence within its service offerings. This has made a huge impact in relation to the company’s ability to provide innovative solutions, with the production scheduling system for multinational aerospace corporation Airbus now utilizing this AI service. “This system is now running in 42 Airbus workshops as without AI it would have been impossible to accomplish this highly demanding task,” says Mařík.
“There is also another new product which utilizes AI, called CertiConVis, which is a platform for complex image processing from various cameras. This utilizes neural networks and machine learning for processing and making decisions in different situations, such as tracking and detecting the suspicious movements of people. It is successfully being used by municipal authorities, police departments and within airports and department stores. This new AI approach makes image processing and decision-making faster, simpler and more efficient. That’s why we are using AI in many of our services and products.”
COLLABORATION IS KEY
One of the ways that CertiCon has been able to create innovative new solutions is through its willingness to collaborate with industry experts and leverage external partnerships. Not only does it work closely with universities and laboratories, but it also partners with experts in varying fields.
“CertiCon employs people who are not just programmers or software testers, we have people whose background is in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and cybernetics who understand the area in which a solution will be developed,” explains Mařík. “For instance, we are contributing to some software pieces for the pacemaker business of Medtronic. The engineers who are working on this are taking specific courses, where they gather information about the heart and how the heart operates so they can fully understand what they are working on and why. This is crucially important as they are not simply programming to a specification, but rather they understand the core problem. That’s the innovation principle, you have to understand what you are doing, and once you fully understand it, you are obliged to think about it and offer an alternative and maybe a better solution.”
CertiCon has also demonstrated its commitment to promoting digital literacy in the Czech Republic, supporting concepts such as the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) — an internationally recognized IT qualification designed to give learners the skills to use a computer confidently and effectively — and allowing high school pupils to spend time within the company.
“These initiatives are very important and we are dedicating a lot of effort and money to these activities. We need to help educate people in the basic skills and we are also developing additional modules for the ECDL, such as a new module on robotics,” reveals Mařík. “Then there are conferences and panel discussions that promote digitalization and AI that we also like to participate in. Elsewhere, we are helping to develop curricula at different universities and we are in touch with several high schools within the country. We enable students from these schools to stay with us for a month or two. This helps the younger generation to better understand digitalization and how companies such as ours are organized.”
This willingness to help cultivate a highly skilled generation of engineers has helped the Czech Republic to earn a reputation as one of the fast-growing technology hubs in Europe. The combination of skilled engineers, government support and EU market access has also made the country highly appealing to investors from the US.
“The most attractive quality is the innovativeness of Czech engineers,” explains Mařík. “They are trained and educated to be open-minded and are always trying to find an optimal solution. When US companies approached us and built subsidiaries here, they were always appreciative of the quality of education on offer and the capability of engineers to intelligently handle problems of different natures. The Czech government also provides good conditions for companies, especially those that are manufacturing or developing the latest technology. This is important because this helps to enhance the knowledge of the local people. If engineers are working with the latest technology, that means they are receiving additional education that can be passed on. Furthermore, once you manufacture something in Czechia then the local market starts to absorb the technology. The products can find customers here locally without any need for transportation. Once you bring the technology, people will quickly get accustomed to using it and it will also be manufactured in the Czech Republic. This brings additional benefit as it opens up the door to the EU market.”
Source: Business Focus | Creating innovative tech solutions