The Challenge - 2021

Fraunhofer Portugal wishes to motivate and award research of practical utility through the attribution of Prizes and Distinctions to students and researchers that contribute to the philosophy behind Fraunhofer Portugal's vision, ‘A Driving Force in Innovation”, and its mission, to develop ‘Research of Practical Utility.




The Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge is an idea contest promoted by Fraunhofer Portugal with the objective of motivating and rewarding research of practical utility, through the attribution of a scientific prize to MSc and PhD students and researchers from Portuguese Universities.

The Challenge consists of awarding the best ideas based on graduation theses that were developed having ‘Research of Practical Utility’ in mind. By this we mean ideas based on theses' concepts that clearly demonstrate a concern with the direct applicability of its results in industry and markets.



The Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge is open to all individual applicants that are/were MSc or PhD Students and Researchers in Portuguese Universities, developing their research activity ideally within the areas of AI, Cyber-Physical Systems, HCI and other related Sciences, Processing Technologies in Agricultural or Environmental Sciences, Food Production and Water Treatment.

Note: Individual applicants with past or present collaboration with Fraunhofer Portugal or with its founding associates, research centres or project partners, are not eligible for participation in the Challenge. This includes past or present employees, thesis students, scholarship students, members of the Jury and their respective direct family.



The concepts submitted to contest (Ideas) must be based on an MSc or PhD thesis/work developed by the Participant, resulting in an academic degree from a Portuguese University.

The ideas must be based on theses concluded and graded in the academic year of 2019/2020, that were not submitted in previous editions of the Challenge, or that have been concluded and will be defended and graded in the academic year of 2020/2021, and provided that they have not been submitted in previous editions of the Challenge, nor any other competition sponsored by Fraunhofer Portugal.

The submitted ideas should reflect and comment their potential impact on the scientific areas currently being developed by Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS and Fraunhofer Portugal AWAM, namely:

a) Human-Centred Design – user research and understanding of technology users, co-design of technology, and technology assessment;
b) Artificial Intelligence – edge and computer vision, sensor fusion and embedded intelligence, cognitive systems and deep learning, and predictive modelling and recommendation;
c) Cyber-physical systems – embedded electronics, communication and networks, edge and cloud computing, and quality assurance and pre-compliance.
d) Membrane Technology;
e) General Process Engineering;
f) Sensors and sensor grids;
g) Energy Systems.



The Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2021 will follow the chronogram below, divided in three rounds:


1st Round

01/June/2021: beginning of the idea submittal period;

31/Jul/2021: end of the idea submittal period;

06/Aug/2021: send applications to the Jury;

13/Sep/2021: announcement of the 1st round results (all the eligible applications);

16/Sep/2021: end of the clarification request period.


2nd Round

14/Sep/2021: beginning of the additional documentation submittal period;

20/Sep/2021: end of the additional documentation submittal period;

24/Sep/2021: send applications to the Jury;

13/Oct/2021: announcement of the 2nd round results (up to 10 finalists);

17/Oct/2021: end of the clarification request period.


3rd Round

27/Oct/2021: Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge Closing Event:

> public presentation of the best 2nd round results;
> announcement of the 3rd round results – The Winners;

03/Nov/2021: end of the clarification request period.



Meet the people who are part of this year's jury panel:


Liliana Ferreira

Liliana Ferreira is the director of Fraunhofer Portugal and Professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto.

Liliana Ferreira holds a PhD in Informatics Engineering from the University of Aveiro, and has worked as a researcher and guest researcher in several research groups as Philips Research Eindhoven,the Institute of Electronics and Telematics Engineering of Aveiro, IBM Research and Development, Ubiquitous Knowledge Lab of the Technical University of Darmstadt and in the Linguistic Department of the University of Tübingen.

Her main research activities are in the area of Human Language Technologies, Information Extraction, Medical Knowledge Representation, and Health Informatics.

Hugo Gamboa

Hugo Gamboa is an Assistant Professor at the Physics Department of the Sciences and Technology Faculty of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and Senior Scientist at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS.

PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Instituto Superior Técnico, Technical University of Lisbon, he founded PLUX, a technology-based innovative startup in the field of systems and wireless medical sensors.

Thomas Härtling

Thomas Härtling received both his diploma and PhD in physics from Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Since 2010, he has been with the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft leading a group focusing on “Optical testing and nano sensors” at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS, Dresden, Germany. Also since 2010, he is affiliated with Technische Universität Dresden at which he was appointed professor in 2018 in the field of “Nanotechnology and Nanosensors” in the department of electrical engineering and information technology. His research interests circle around sensor and measurement approaches for process-integrated production monitoring based on nanoscale optical materials and structures with a focus on biotechnology, environmental technology, and agriculture. In 2020 he was appointed director of the Fraunhofer Portugal Center for Smart Agriculture and Water Management AWAM in Vila Real, Portugal.

Panel of Invited Experts


Meet the people who are part of this year's invited experts panel:


João José Pinto Ferreira

João José Pinto Ferreira holds a Licenciatura in Electrical Engineering and Computers at Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto (FEUP) in 1987; MSc Electrical Engineering and Computers at FEUP in 1991; Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computers at FEUP in 1995; Habilitation in Industrial Engineering and Management in April 2011. He has held several positions at the FEUP: 1987-1995: Assistant Lecturer; 1995 - 2003: Assistant Professor; 2003-today: Associate Professor. At FEUP (1997-2000) he was also a Member of the Executive Board of the Electrical Engineering Department and is, since 2004, the Director of the Master Program of Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship. Has supervised MSc and Ph.D. students in the areas of Electrical Engineering and Computers, Informatics Engineering and Industrial Engineering and Management. He is co-editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Journal of Innovation Management, His research focuses on the Front-End of innovation and on its synergies with the early stages of the entrepreneurial activity.

Pedro Saleiro

Pedro Saleiro is a Director of Research at Feedzai where he leads the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics in AI research group. Pedro is responsible for several research initiatives in Responsible AI related to bias auditing and fairness, explainable AI, A/B testing and ML governance. Previously, Pedro was a postdoc at the University of Chicago and a research data scientist at the Center for Data Science and Public Policy working with Rayid Ghani, where he co-developed the Aequitas library, the first open-source toolkit to audit bias in ML models, and doing data science for projects with government and non-profit partners. Pedro holds a PhD in Machine Learning from University of Porto.

Helena Silva

Helena is a member of the Executive Board of CEIIA since 2016, and Chief Technology Officer. In addition to the overall management of the engineering activities, she coordinates the CEiiA by CoLAB Unit “Smart & Sustainable Living” and all the major R&D development projects in the area of automotive, mobility and cities. She is also a member of the Board of EEA (Empresa de Engenharia Aeronáutica) and Mobinov Cluster. From 2010 to 2015 she was General Manager of CEiiA, being involved in the deployment of the Aeronautical Unit, through projects with Leonardo Helicopetrs and with Embraer, and more recently, in the deployment of Ocean and Space Unit. In 2001 she had joined INTELI, where she developed the project that led to the creation of CEiiA and its Automotive Engineering Area. From 2001 to 2009, as Advisor to the Board of CEiiA, she coordinated and participated in several projects. From 1997 to 2001 Helena worked, first in Manufacturing Planning, and then in Pilot Plant, at Volkswagen Autoeuropa. Helena holds a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and a MSc. in Management and Industrial Strategy by ISEG, having written a dissertation about “Product Development processes in the Automotive Industry : The VW Case”. She is attended the EDAM – “Engineering Design and Advanced Manufacturing” PhD. Programme from MIT-Portugal.

Joana Resende

Joana Resende is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Management of U.Porto and, since 2018, Pro-Rector for Strategic Planning, Entrepreneurship and Knowledge Transfer at the same University. She is a member of the Board of Directors of U.Porto Science and Technology Park (UPTEC), she is responsible for U.Porto Technology Transfer Office (U.Porto Inovação) and a member of the General Council of INESC-TEC (Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science). From 2017-2020, she was a member of the Board of Directors of Cef-up (Center for Economics and Finance at University of Porto). Joana holds a PhD in Economics and Management Science from Université Catholique de Louvain (joint degree with U.Porto). Her main research areas are industrial organization and digital economics, and she is particularly interested in investigating business models and competitive dynamics allowed by new generation digital technologies. She has taken part in multiple national and international scientific projects. At the present moment she is the local Coordinator of the EUGLOH Alliance (funded by Erasmus + within the European Universities Initiative) and the EUGLOHRIA project (funded by H2020 – Swafs). She is also the Principal Investigator of the project New Business Models in the Digital Age: Theory and Applications (funded by the Portuguese Science Foundation). Her research has been published in leading international economic journals, including The Rand Journal of Economics, Marketing Science, Economic Theory, International Journal of Industrial Organization, Journal of Mathematical Economics, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Information, Economics & Policy, Journal of Public Economic Theory. Over time, she has acted as consultant for both private and public entities, in the areas of competition policy, regulation and energy markets.



The 12th edition of the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge will award a total of €9.000 (nine thousand Euros) in scientific prizes.

The scientific prizes are divided into two categories: MSc and PhD theses. Each category has three placements (1st, 2nd and 3rd Prize).

In addition, the award winners may also receive the opportunity to join the Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS or the Fraunhofer Portugal AWAM research teams, depending on their overall performance in the Challenge. 



For more specific informations, please consult the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2021 - Terms & Conditions and the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2021 - Contest Presentation. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.