March 19, 2015

Rigorous Systems Engineering continues to rise and shine

Research network RiSE secured second funding period • FWF awarded grant of 3.7 mio € for follow-up project SHiNE • IST Austria in collaboration with four Austrian universities

The internationally recognized research network RiSE – short for Rigorous Systems Engineering – secured a second funding period of four years until 2019. The Austrian Science Fund FWF awarded a grant of 3.7 mio € for the follow-up project SHiNE (Systematic Methods in Systems Engineering), confirming the group’s successful work in establishing an Austrian research network ranking among the best in their field globally.

RiSE started in 2011 as a National Research Network (“Nationales Forschungsnetzwerk”, NFN) funded by FWF, and since then has put Austria on the map as a center of excellence in computer science, in particular in the emerging field of rigorous systems engineering, which intends to optimize the cooperation between different software applications. In the second funding period, SHiNE aims to further expand the reliability and resilience of interacting software programs, which increasingly shape modern technology in basically all aspects of everyday life. Project coordinator Roderick Bloem (TU Graz): “Continued funding for RiSE makes sure that Austrian researchers will continue to lead in research in this area. It will also allow Austrian companies to remain at the forefront of innovation through continued intensive collaboration and through education of students.”

So far, nine separate research units formed one large collaborating group that already demonstrated major achievements in its first funding period: The group has expanded to create an international network with highly prestigious projects in Germany (AlgoSyn, PUMA) and the US (CMACS, ExCAPE). RiSE attracted many young researchers and enabled the tenure of a full professor, namely Prof. Radu Grosu at TU Wien. International visibility was also achieved through the creation of the Vienna Summer of Logic conference in 2014, to which RiSE members made important contributions, as well as a number of fruitful interdisciplinary exchange visits. Important steps have been made forward in an area of basic research that is also extremely relevant for the commercial interests of companies. This is correspondingly reflected by the fact that PhD candidates and postdocs within the network find excellent jobs in both industry and academia.

During the first funding period, group members of RiSE received several prominent awards and grants: three ERC grants (Thomas A. Henzinger, Krishnendu Chatterjee, Laura Kovács), a Wittgenstein award (T. Henzinger), one WWTF Research Group for Young Investigators (Georg Weissenbacher), two WWTF grants (Florian Zuleger, Helmut Veith),  a Google PhD Fellowship (Michael Lippautz), a FESTO prize and a Wallenberg Academy Fellowship (both Laura Kovács), in addition to several best paper awards.

In a world of ever increasing computational complexity where reliability of systems is crucial not just in PC’s, but also in safety-critical applications such as airplanes, cars, or energy distribution systems, rigorous systems engineering strives to prevent bugs upfront as part of the programming process. Mathematics-based tools and models are being studied that will pave the way for computer-aided quality assurance in programming, ultimately resulting in faultless software.

With the acceptance of follow-up funding, SHiNE is now aiming to extend the understanding of system correctness to non-functional aspects such as automatically increasing concurrency (i.e. execution of several computations simultaneously) as required by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing, and verifying that systems work correctly even if some pieces of hardware break down.

The principal investigators are renowned scientists from TU Graz, TU Wien, IST Austria, JKU Linz, and PLU Salzburg, namely Armin Biere, Roderick Bloem, Krishnendu Chatterjee, Thomas A. Henzinger, Helmut Veith, Uwe Egly, Christoph Kirsch, Ulrich Schmid, and Radu Grosu.

These researchers were joined by several excellent young Primary Investigators for the second round of funding: Martina Seidl, a recognized expert in computational complexity theory and assistant professor in Linz, will lead all activities on rigorous solver engineering; Ana Sokolova, assistant professor in Salzburg and an expert on probabilistic systems, will be responsible for trace semantics in probabilistic systems; Ezio Bartocci, currently assistant professor at TU Wien and an expert on real-time systems, will work on parametric and probabilistic timed systems. Georg Weissenbacher (an expert on interpolation and debugging, previously at Princeton and Oxford, now assistant professor at TU Wien) will research methods to explain concurrency bugs; Florian Zuleger (an expert on program termination, and assistant professor at TU Wien) will study bound analysis for concurrent programs.

Project coordinator Prof. Roderick Bloem from TU Graz commented on the impact of past and upcoming funding: “I am very happy that the grant has given us the opportunity to form a group of excellent heads, allowing them to closely collaborate and to produce world-class research with international visibility. The continuation of funding helps us to bring outstanding scientists – both PhD candidates and professors – to Austria. This in turn will greatly benefit both academic education and creation of jobs.”

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