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Fredrik Danielsson, ny professor i automation

Fredrik Danielsson, recently appointed professor of automation, likes to conduct research closely linked to industry. Lots of practical research is conducted in the advanced automation lab at the Centre for Production Technology. Photo: Andreas Borg, University West.

Congratulations Fredrik. How does it feel to have been appointed professor?

“It feels great to receive the recognition of many years of work in the field. It may not change my daily life much, but I am naturally happy about it.”

What has meant the most during your 24 years at University West?

“I have had the honour of being involved in developing the field of automation at the University. It has been an exciting journey where we have gone from occasional discussions about automation to today having master’s programmes with over a hundred students, many doctoral students and a high degree of integration between research and education.”

Why did you choose to research automation?

“Flexible automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have always interested me. It is exciting to see how we can use software to impact a physical event. You see immediately if something is right or wrong. It is also a research field where basic knowledge is needed on everything from physics and electricity to programming and robotics.

We can use AI to give robots multiple abilities so that they can work more flexibly. When robots learn to ‘think for themselves’, we won’t have to spend so much time reprogramming them. Retooling a production facility for a new product will go quickly. The robots will take care of the heavy, dangerous work and humans will have more advanced work tasks.”

What are the challenges in your research field?

“When I began researching about automation in the 1990s, industry had a negative attitude toward the idea of flexible automation with AI. Many thought it was a dumb idea. After all, they already had automation solutions that they were satisfied with, such as robots that did simple tasks in the automotive industry. At the same time, there was a fear of how more advanced robots would work.

Today, though, there is significant interest in AI and automation. It has become an important competitive factor in Swedish industry since other countries, like China, are investing heavily in the field.”

What motivates you?

“It is exciting to do things that no one else has done before. The creativity and freedom to think in new ways is probably what I like the most about this profession.

I am triggered by comments like ‘It will never work’ or ‘We don’t need new solutions’. That’s when I want to really prove it is possible. Since University West is focused on applied research in close collaboration with industry, we often conduct practical experiments in demonstration facilities at the Centre for Production Technology in Trollhättan. This makes the research results tangible and makes our close collaboration with industry easier.”

What happens next?

“I see an exciting future for our research. Today, there are around 30 researchers working with automation, and AI and robotics are a major focus. Within just five to 10 years, industrial robots will be much smarter and the manufacture of everything from cars to prefabricated wood buildings can be done more flexibly and effectively. That’s when I can retire and pass the baton to younger researchers.

If we look even further into the future, 30–40 years, I think that human-like robots, called humanoid robots, will work in industry side-by-side with more highly trained engineers.”

Contact: Fredrik Danielsson,