2022 ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg

2022 ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg

ABB awards $ 300,000 grant over the next three years to Utsav Banerjee for on-going research that will improve security with connected devices.

The 2022 ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg has been awarded to Dr. Utsav Banerjee. The award, which is presented every three years, comes with a grant of $300,000 and will support Banerjee to continue his work on innovative integrated circuits and systems for increased security on the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices. The award ceremony was held at ABB’s Research Center in Baden, Switzerland.

Currently an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in Bengaluru, Banerjee received his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the United States in June 2021. The title of his dissertation is “Efficient Algorithms, Protocols and Hardware Architectures for Next-Generation Cryptography in Embedded Systems”. As a graduate student at MIT, Banerjee worked on a number of exciting projects related to hardware security. He also received a MS in electrical engineering from MIT.

Banerjee was introduced to the field of hardware security and implementation of cryptography and other security applications on the IoT while pursuing his graduate degrees at MIT, where he was advised by Prof. Anantha P. Chandrakasan, a pioneer in the field of energy-efficient circuits and systems. This field of research involves complex mathematics and electronic circuits, especially chip design – a combination Banerjee likes very much. “Working in this domain has become a dream come true for me,” explains Banerjee.

ABB CEO Björn Rosengren, awardee Dr. Utsav Banerjee and Hubertus von Grünberg, former ABB Chairman, at the ABB Research Award ceremony in Baden, Switzerland. (Image: Selina Meier / ABB)
ABB CEO Björn Rosengren, awardee Dr. Utsav Banerjee and Hubertus von Grünberg, former ABB Chairman, at the ABB Research Award ceremony in Baden, Switzerland. (Image: Selina Meier / ABB)
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In order to increase the level of security between connected devices extremely complex algorithms are needed to encrypt and protect the data being exchanged. This is especially so with the massive, and constant, flow of data in, for example, process and automation sectors. However, executing this today requires large amounts of computing power, over an extended period of time, using a lot of energy. With his research Banerjee aims to improve the security level, speed up encryption and authentication of data, while at the same time reducing the power needed.

Even as a schoolboy in India, Banerjee was fascinated by latest developments in electronics and followed them closely. Now he is pushing the boundaries of technologies while implementing leading edge concepts and algorithms to encrypt data faster and more efficiently.

His project will address critical security and privacy issues in the IoT. It aims to bridge the gap between complex theoretical concepts and practical implementation techniques to enable efficient hardware solutions for secure edge computing. This field becomes increasingly critical to many companies as more and more components are connected to the internet and exchange data across companies` sites. Every one of these connections has to be secure as only secure systems can provide reliable data.

The research will lead to new implementation-level advances in the field of secure computation. Results from this research are expected to inspire new breakthroughs in the field of privacy preserving computation, taking us one step further towards the goal of strong and affordable data security with high efficiency. “With this year’s ABB Research Award we recognize Dr Banerjee as an outstanding researcher who has worked and will continue to work on innovative integrated circuits and systems for increased security of the Internet of Things. That for me is a cornerstone of the progressing digitalization in industry, but also in everyone`s life,” said Hubertus von Grünberg, former ABB Chairman.

“Our hope is that we will be able to imbed high-performance low-power hardware in tiny devices and all the data that is collected by these devices will be encrypted and will remain encrypted even when there is computation happening in the cloud,” explains Banerjee.

“With the ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg we recognize outstanding work while facilitating and encouraging advanced research. With Dr Banerjee the jury selected a great candidate out of the global field of all applicants. His research will help to make the foundation of our modern world, the internet, more secure,” said ABB CEO Björn Rosengren.

“It is a great honor to receive this award from ABB. Receiving this award gives me confidence as a researcher that I am working in a domain which will have a big impact in the field of electronics and security,” says Banerjee. “This award will help me in pursing the research in the direction of hardware security and most importantly, enabling these hardware systems which will do computation on encrypted data. This will involve both software as well as hardware components, and custom chip design, which will be fabricated to implement these kinds of hardware accelerators.”

As leader of the project in the Secure Intelligent and Efficient Systems group at the IISc, Banerjee, together with his colleagues, aims to develop world-class technology and solutions in this research field. “We have an excellent support system in the department and in the Institute,” he adds.

He chose to conduct his research in India at the Institute of Science because it is the leading institute in the country. He adds, “Being in India I still stay close to my roots and I have an opportunity to contribute back to my society, both through research as well as teaching.”

Banerjee and his team are currently working on simulations of new algorithms but the step-by-step process of testing and evaluating chip designs makes it hard to predict by when results will be reached. But he is confident the funds of the research award will help to make a first demonstrator available within the next 18 months.

The ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Grünberg, which is presented every three years, honors the best PhD 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. The award comes with a grant of $300,000 over three years.

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