Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro are Partner Countries in the Western Balkans (WBs) region with a young population, dynamic economy and serious need for growth, development and green transition. The priorities set out in the latter represent the priorities of the ministries in the three countries as well as the approximation to the priorities at the regional level set by the EU. The IoT-ECO project falls into the category of Capacity building projects which typically focus on strengthening relations between higher education and the wider economic and social environment and Strand 2: Partnerships for transformation in higher education, which aims to have a large and wider impact on innovation, university / business relations and institutional governance. The European Council recently paved the way for the opening of membership negotiations with Albania since June 2019 and the country is trying to improve and harmonize its regulations with European standards to prepare its institutions and residents for successful integration into the European Union (EU). The European Green Deal, the Sustainable European investment Plan and the Sustainable Industry come to lead the development in all three countries.
This project aims to address these specific needs by proposing opportunities for intelligent solutions based on Internet of Things (IoT)/Internet of Everything (IoE) technology, their implementation for green transformation and development of institutional and academic capacities towards national and regional cooperation between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the WBs. The feasibility study of a human capacity building and infrastructure initiative is one of the pillars of this project. In addition to the academic dimension, this project aims to achieve the business and social dimensions. This joint project uses IoT to upgrade technology in higher education to address the needs identified in each partner country. Since we are in Industrial 4.0, preparing and informing IoT-related individuals will help them access these futuristic technologies.
Each WBs HEIs vision is to build capacity, create an innovative ecosystem that, firstly, will allow the institution to grow and secondly, provide the community and society with IoT/IoE solutions. According to various studies IoT/IoE can help developing countries grow and achieve sustainable economics and green transformation. Albania’s main economic sectors include agriculture, tourism, and energy. In all these sectors the IoT has been seen as a tool for innovation and change towards sustainable growth especially in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 (Bitri, Aida; Marinova, Galia; and Hajrizi, Edmond, “The Internet of Things”. to assist in the implementation of SDGs: A case of Albania and Kosovo, opportunities and challenges “(2019). UBT International Conference. 331.). Six WB HEIs from Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro want through this proposal to build the necessary capacity and invest in knowledge and practical application in the field of IoT and green transformation. Trainings and knowledge exchange with the 3 EU HEIs from Bulgaria, Greece and Austria will be a founding step towards a green future in WB HEIs and region. Three associate partners – an innovation fund, a port and an ICT company are here to model the academic society and business oriented innovative ecosystem. IoT-ECO hub will be developed since IoT hubs are utilized for energy efficiency (power management), air pollution (e-health). Furthermore, WB HEIs will create a network with each other to collaborate on common projects for green transformation.
IoT-ECO as a capacity-building project will support WB HEIs to:
- Assist academic staff improving their knowledge and expertise in the field of green ecosystem – energy efficiency, air pollution, Industrial IoT.
- Introduce IoT to society and raise awareness of its potential for green transformation.
- Establish IoT-ECO hub in the WB HEIs network to facilitate creative projects, design, and technology transfer with a focus on resilient solutions.
- Develop virtual prototypes of Green transformation ecosystem models of the Port of Durres and the university campuses of UBT, Pristina, and the University of Montenegro, Podgorica. Then make them available at the IoT-ECO hub.
- Integrate and harmonize study programs with the needs of the industry in relation to IoT and green transformation. Develop new and updated courses and integrate them in the syllabi for providing the skills and competences that future engineers need.
The main target beneficiary with mobilities courses and trainings are the students in the WB HEIs. Larger impact on society will be obtained through networking and dissemination activities with focus to younger students, people with disabilities, business representatives and governmental institutions