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ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg given to Dr. Ambuj Varshney

Innovation leader ABB awards US$ 300,000 grant over the next three years to young scientist Ambuj Varshney for ongoing research that makes networked embedded systems more sustainable and data gathering in industry easier. 


ABB awarded the second ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg to Ambuj Varshney. The 33 year old researcher, who received his Ph.D in Computer Science in May 2018 from Uppsala University, Sweden, was recognized at a ceremony in Dättwil, Switzerland, for his research on designing sustainable Networked Embedded Systems (NES). He was chosen from more than 60 applicants from leading institutions around the world applying for one of the world's highest endowed research prizes offered by a company.

In its reasoning, the high-caliber jury praised Varshney´s innovative approach identifying intertwined challenges that affect the sustainability of NES systems such as co-existence on the shared wireless spectrum, energy consumption and the cost of the deployment and maintenance. 

In one of his major research projects, Varshney developed an ultra-low power and long-range communication system (LoRea) for battery-free sensors that harvest small amounts of energy from the ambient environment. He has succeeded in demonstrating the ability to communicate to distances as long as a few kilometers while consuming only tens of microwatts at the sensor device which could pave the way for a wide-area deployment of battery-free sustainable NES. In his submitted and now award-winning postgraduate research project “Towards Future Factories: Enabling Sustainable Sensing” he wants to pursue and expand this approach.

“As a global technology leader driving the digital transformation of industry, we are keen to support groundbreaking research that has the potential to make industry more efficient, productive and sustainable,” said Peter Voser, Chairman and CEO of ABB, at the award ceremony. “Ambuj Varshney is a worthy recipient of this award because his innovative approach could dramatically increase our capacity to collect, transmit and ultimately analyze data in an environmentally sustainable manner and so help to pave the way to autonomous industries.”

The past several years have seen a rapid growth in NES applications. As the number of devices connected to each other on the Internet of Things (IoT) grows - with estimates of 50 billion devices in 2020 - one of the critical research challenges is going to be sustaining their large-scale deployment. In the jury´s opinion, Varshney´s approach is suitable to support NES in a sustainable manner for long periods without negatively impacting their physical or the radio environment. Varshney`s research could lay the groundwork for collecting an unexpectedly large amount of evaluable data in industries of all kinds paving the way for advanced data analytics.

“I would like to thank ABB and the jury for granting me this prestigious award”, Varshney said. “This award will help me to take a major step towards the vision of a sustainable NES which could have a significant impact across application domains, for example, future factories. This award enables me to leverage more than a century of expertise of ABB in developing innovative technologies to move ahead in the exciting direction of backscatter communication.”

The ABB Research Award, which is presented every three years, honors the best Ph.D. dissertation leading to an excellent research proposal in the fields of electrical, mechanical or software engineering, electronics, robotics, artificial intelligence, process automation, and any related technical discipline, as applied in utilities, industries, and transport and infrastructure. Endowed with US$ 300,000, the award is dedicated to ongoing research over the next three years and intended as a signal to postdocs that it is worthwhile to keep one's eye on a topic and stay focused.

The jury’s special attention was paid to specific real-world applications and potential for innovation beside the benefit of the research to society and the environment. Both the Ph.D. student and the supervising professor were recognized during the ceremony in the ABB research center in Dättwil, Switzerland. 

The ABB Research Award is dedicated in honor of the achievements of Hubertus von Grünberg, who served as ABB Chairman from 2007 to April 2015. Von Grünberg, a theoretical physicist who wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1970 on Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, was instrumental in setting ABB on a path to sustainable growth. It is his legacy that supporting research, both at universities and within the company, has become a strategic imperative for ABB. Investing some US$ 1.3 billion per year in R&D and operating numerous research centers around the world makes ABB one of most innovative companies worldwide driving the digital transformation of industries.

The awardee decision was made by a renowned international jury consisting of Dr. Hubertus von Grünberg, Prof. Nina Thornhill (Imperial College London), Prof. M. Granger Morgan (Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh), Prof. Roland Siegwart (ETH Zurich), Prof. C.L. Philip Chen (University of Macau, Taipa, Macau) and Bazmi Husain, CTO of ABB.

The next ABB Research Award will be granted in 2022.