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Enhancing the Research and Innovation Potential of M-ITI through Human-Computer Interaction and Design Innovation

Final Report Summary - LEAPFROG M-ITI (Enhancing the Research and Innovation Potential of M-ITI through Human-Computer Interaction and Design Innovation)

Executive Summary:
The research & innovation division in Europe remains a pressing challenge. In Horizon 2020 efforts will be intensified to spread excellence and broaden participation across Europe. This will be achieved by encouraging organizations in Widening countries to further develop and take better advantage of their research and innovation potential through a number of specific measures involving investing, mentoring, networking, communication, and thematic activities.
ERA Chairs
ERA Chairs stand for bringing excellence to institutions. ERA Chairs projects bring outstanding academics, with proven research excellence and management skills, to universities and research institutions in Widening countries with potential for research excellence. They aim to attract and maintain high-quality human resources under the direction of an outstanding researcher (the 'ERA Chair holder') while at the same time implementing structural changes necessary to achieve excellence on a sustainable basis.
M-ITI / LARSyS Before and During leapFROG M-ITI
Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) was born in early 2009 from a group of researchers, who led its formation as an autonomous research unit. That group was a mix of professors from the University of Madeira (UMa) and faculty recruited under the Carnegie Mellon International partnership. This original group of founders was able to get a very positive independent evaluation and join the Instituto de Sistemas e Roboótica (ISR) Associated Laboratory (which in the 2013 national evaluation became LARSyS). At the end of 2009, M-ITI Associação - the not-for-profit institution - was created as an association between the Regional Government of Madeira and UMa. M-ITI was the first and only innovation institute of UMa in an organizational model which aimed at combining Masters-level education with innovation projects and industry. In this model, ITI, as a research unit, and the M-ITI Association co-existed under a common vision that combined Masters-level teaching with research and innovation projects. Throughout the period before and after the ERA Chair grant, M-ITI evolved significantly in terms of human capital. The total number of researchers (all research including PhD holders, hired researchers and staff and master and PhD students) increased from 69 to 117 (+70%) and the number of Ph.D. students more than doubled (from 25 to 53). The ERA Chair grant impacted the increase in the number of post-docs and research track faculty which was almost inexistent. The total number of ongoing active research contract grants also increased more than 50% in particular with international bodies.
The evolution of M-ITI in terms of research indicators was not as significant as in terms of researchers and students. The total number of publications (journals and conferences) was stable throughout the period with an increase in 2018. The total number of Ph.D. thesis awarded is low compared to the total number of students enrolled. The sustainability of M-ITI was significantly dependent on teaching and tuition which, in turn, provided academic career positions at UMa. Since the new charter of UMa of 2015 (which coincided with the mid-term of the ERA Chair project) and the termination of the CMU dual- degree programs in 2017, M-ITI was left in an “institutional limbo” faced with the need to develop a new sustainability model based mostly on competitive research projects and research-track faculty positions (as is the case of the ERA Chair faculty). Sustainability for career development is almost impossible to achieve in a small institution that relies solely on soft money (LARSyS pluriannual funds are soft money because they depend on the cycles of the international evaluation determined by FCT and they cannot be used to pay tenure track salaries).

Project Context and Objectives:
The leapFROG M-ITI Vision

The goal of the leapFROG project proposal was to seek funding in order to expand the research and innovation potential of the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) of the University of Madeira through the hiring of an ERA Chair in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Design Innovation (DI). The leapFROG HCI-DI aimed at unlocking the full potential of interdisciplinary research in interactive technologies, while strengthening innovation and knowledge transfer activities in close collaboration with local and global industrial partners and contributing to the smart specialization strategy of Madeira. To this end, funding this project should support the following main activities:

(i) Upgrade the RDT capacity and capability by expanding the human potential and fostering a critical mass of researchers with inter-disciplinary expertise in human-computer interaction (HCI);

(ii) Improve M-ITI’s innovation potential and impact at the regional, national and European levels, through design-driven innovation. Such an approach will unravel the impact of open innovation and crowdsourcing on education, training and knowledge transfer, and extend the creative research capabilities of individuals and organizations in the region and finally;

(iii) Raise international awareness about the institute and connect M-ITI and its industry affiliates to the global knowledge networks.
As a consequence of these activities, leapFROG aimed at better integrating M-ITI with the European Research Area (ERA) and, in particular, improving the participation of M-ITI and associated entities of the recently created regional system for R&D+I, thereby increasing the level of participation of the institute in the Horizon 2020 program.

Following these goals, the leapFROG project started with a vision workshop (https://erachair.m- to focus the core and define the strategy of M-ITI under the auspices of leapFROG. As a group of researchers thinking about the future of our institution, we felt the need to reassess and define our research core, in particular in the light of moving towards desirable future scenarios and the near task of selecting a potential key mover in the institute, the holder of the ERA Chair grant. Our research core resulted to revolve around conceiving, designing and producing Transformative Experiences.

M-ITI exists to lead research on transformative experiences under a real context of tensions between i) competitive academic careers; ii) sharing inclusive authentic work; iii) bureaucratic inertia; and iv) insular conformist community. By identifying present macro trends relevant to our institution goals, we created four possible future scenarios, which we dubbed as follows: i) particle accelerator; ii) zombie swamp; iii) beer club; and iv) further (our preferred scenario).

After having reassessed our research core, as a group, the group visualized how our research would look like in the Further Scenario. Through collages and mood boards each member mapped their vision of the future of M-ITI research. Through this workshop, we worked out a vision and identified clear signs from the present and possible future contexts to which pay attention.
The ERAChair is a generalist, with a strong academic background in HCI, and some business and creative experience. S/he has a large professional network spreading across different sectors. s/he is well respected in the HCI community. The ERA Chair is a pragmatic visionary. S/he is ambitious and does not shy from a challenge and is resilient to crisis situations. Their leadership is decisive, as well as inclusive, confident, but also open to learning. S/he is able to balance the need for inward consolidation of everyone’s strengths, with the need to be outward (community) oriented, fostering outreach and incubation. Aside from knowledge and experience, emotional intelligence is an important characteristic of the ERA Chair. S/he is a team player has a great ability to listen and is keen to work in service of the community – bringing the best out of people s/he works with. Her leadership style is coaching/facilitative, rather than top-down authoritarian. S/he has broad interests can hold conversations about any topic and does not discriminate between research/non-research conversations. S/he has a healthy work/life balance and inspires others with his/her effectiveness without working 24/7. S/he has lived in the north but likes the south, the sun, and the sea. A nature lover who likes spending time outdoors, the ERA Chair would enjoy the location of M-ITI and the environment that Madeira has to offer. S/he is aware that funding is secured for five years and that it depends on him/her to extend its duration, and maybe even be willing to take on a different role after five years, to allow for some ‘fresh blood’ to refresh the institute’s vision.

Project Objectives

The strategic objective of the leapFROG project is to establish M-ITI as a European Level excellence research center in interactive systems, boosting innovation and increasing the attractiveness and competitiveness of Madeira as a Living Lab for interactive technologies. Such technologies are focused on four application domains that correspond to high-impact societal challenges: assistive technologies for aging populations, sustainability for smart cities and creative media in digital culture.
Based on this strategy the leapFROG general objectives are:
- To establish M-ITI as an active player in the European Research Area by building an experienced partnering network of European excellence centers that will assist in strengthening M-ITI's research capacity through know-how exchange, infrastructure setup, EU funding access and brain-drain prevention.
- To assist M-ITI to reach distinctive and critical human capital in interactive technologies by overcoming the fragmentation of competences (typically driven by academic and not research requirements) that is currently straining M-ITI's existing human resources.
- To improve the innovation performance by creating a unique research infrastructure based on an open innovation model that leverages Madeira as an international living lab for testing innovative interactive technologies and their impact.
- To boost the potential of M-ITI to generate innovative ideas that can be turned into new marketable interactive systems and services through the attraction of industry and the generation of startups and spin-offs.
- To focus M-ITI research strategy in key application domains that correspond to important societal challenges aligned with the ERA strategic planning: entertainment and assistive technologies, creative media and digital culture, and sustainability for smart cities.
- To overcome the brain-drain by recruiting high quality experienced researchers, engineers and established scientists, and promoting free exchange of knowledge between and across the partner network.
- To enhance the use of generated knowledge through instituting an effective strategy for managing intellectual property.
- To substantially improve the RTD indicators of the Autonomous Region of Madeira and contribute to changing the economic and development paradigm, which is presently under enormous pressure due to the financial crisis.
Project Results:
Project Achievements (5 Years)

Summary Achievements

1. To establish M-ITI as an active player in the European Research Area

In the last five years M-ITI established over 60 new connections and partnerships across Europe and overseas that resulted in project proposals, both H2020 and private foundations. The organization of workshops, talks and conferences at M-ITI featuring renowned speakers allowed to spread the name of M-ITI; the establishment and nurturing of a new partnership with UT Austin University allowed for students to enroll in a Ph.D. program in which M-ITI is a host institution partner. This program gave new opportunities for Madeiran students to interact with international students in new fields of science and technology.

2. Assist M-ITI to reach distinctive and critical human capital in HCI and DI

The ERA Chair team consists of the ERA Chair holder, three faculty members and three postdoc researchers, as well as four Ph.D. candidates, which represents an increase of nearly 30% of the Ph.D. researchers and of 10% in the Ph.D. candidates. These are resident researchers as opposed to other integrated members that are linked to other universities.

3. To improve the innovation performance

The living lab expressed at the time of the proposal was more or less extinct when the ERA Chair holder was recruited and ended up being refocused to a Civic Media approach with the work that is being developed in local communities, such as Câmara de Lobos, Ponta do Sol, and Funchal. On the other side, Auger’s work explores the potential of the Island as an experimental living laboratory where fictional, factual and functional multi-scale energy-related proposals and projects are combined, being the Newton Machine the most visible outcome of this work.

4. To boost the potential of M-ITI to generate innovative ideas that can be turned into new marketable interactive systems and services

With the support of the Business department started by Engineer José Luís Freitas, hired for the ERA Chair team, a startup emerged from M-ITI and was awarded a first stage H2020 SME instrument. This company, prsma as well as RootIO (both M-ITI spinoffs) have been business partners in H2020 proposals with M-ITI.

5. To focus M-ITI research strategy in key application domains that correspond to important societal challenges aligned with the ERA Chair

The ERA Chair holder and team brought to M-ITI new lines of thought that were already emergent in Europe and match the wish of having a more human-centered perspective on the institute. From the Critical Technical Practice (CTP) Lab emerged a new perspective: Csíkszentmihályi has a strong commitment to Civic Media, prioritizing innovation for communities, Free/Open Knowledge, humanist and social concerns in technology. Teli’s work is in interdisciplinary contexts focusing on the political dimensions of the production and use of digital technologies. Auger’s work focuses on critical and speculative approaches to design and technology. Hanna’s work has been focusing on future studies, design fiction, digital storytelling, and livability.

6. To overcome the brain-drain

The public call for research faculty published in 2015 received over a hundred applications from all over the globe. Some applications came both from experienced and well-established researchers and recently graduated, attracted to the novelty of the proposed role. Some of the prestigious institutions from which these applicants came included Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Eindhoven, among others. This objective was accomplished not only by the quality of the faculty hired for the ERA Chair team but also due to the highly interesting networks brought along by these faculties which include Trento University, Royal College of London, IT Copenhagen, University of Edinburgh, among others.

7. To enhance the use of generated knowledge through instituting an effective strategy for managing intellectual property

One of the project actions included the research of innovative ways to tackle with the challenges of the internet and digital media in intellectual property. Following an approach of Free/Open Knowledge, M-ITI hosted a series of public workshops/talks entitled IP21 with guests coming from open source companies, such as Open Maps.

8. To improve the RTD indicators of the Autonomous Region of Madeira and contribute to changing the economic and development paradigm

The ERA Chair project contributed to the achievement of this goal by successfully hiring a team of prestigious researchers that moved and established themselves in Madeira, some bringing their families. Contributions also include the increased number of project proposals and publications. In total, the ERA Chair members submitted 23 proposals in 3 years with a success rate of 35%. More than 150 research outputs were published between 2015 and 2019. Other contributions include the improvement of management skills and H2020 knowledge provided by the training funded by the ERA Chair project; the hiring of well-trained project managers that provided support not only to the project but to M-ITI as a whole.

Ph.D. Students

Michelle Kasprzak

Michelle Kasprzak is a Canadian curator and writer who has been based in Europe for over 15 years. Most recently, Michelle curated the main exhibition at Future Flux Festival in Rotterdam. Michelle has held a range of curatorial roles at organizations such as V2_ Institute for Unstable Media, the Dutch Electronic Art Festival, and New Media Scotland. She has curated works by artists such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Takahiro Iwasaki, Kitty Kraus, Katie Paterson, Nam June Paik, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Ilona Gaynor, Frederik de Wilde, Germaine Koh.

She has appeared in publications such as Wired UK and on radio and television broadcasts on the BBC and CBC. She has delivered lectures at Boijmans Museum (Rotterdam, NL), Nottingham Contemporary (Nottingham, UK), and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh, UK). In 2006, she was awarded a curatorial research residency at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland, in 2010 she attended the Summer Seminars for Art Curators in Yerevan, Armenia, and in 2011 was a guest of the BAM International Visitors Program in Flanders.

She has written critical essays for HOLO, C Magazine, Volume, Spacing, CV Photo, Public, Mute, and several online journals on a wide range of subjects in the realm of contemporary culture. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and exhibition catalogs in both Canada and Europe. From 2006-2015, Michelle was Editor-in-Chief of a leading blog on the subject of curating contemporary art,

M-ITI’s choice for doing her Ph.D. was based on the reputation and background of Chris Csíkszentmihályi. He posted on social media that he was looking for Ph.D. students, and we had a call soon thereafter. She was led to M-ITI because of Chris, and Chris convinced her that Madeira and M-ITI provided an interesting context within which to work and experiment. After a couple of years doing fieldwork which focuses on a particular town on the island, Michelle is finding her choice has been very rewarding.

The next steps in her Ph.D. are to mount the exhibition with Rigo 23 at MUDAS as part of the Madeira 600-year anniversary celebrations and defend her dissertation.

Regarding M-ITI’s direct contributions, Michelle focuses the scholarship she has been awarded with, the workspace and a support network. The advice of M-ITI staff when she was getting started was essential. M-ITI also supported the participation at conferences and made a contribution to supporting travel for one of her research collaborators.

Jude Mukundane

Jude Mukundane is a doctoral researcher in the Networked Interactive Cyber-Physical Systems (NETSyS) Ph.D. program between M-ITI and Instituto Superior Técnico, supervised by Prof. Csíkszentmihályi. He is originally from Uganda and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Makerere University. His work in investigating alternative configurations of pervasive communication technologies for better use by grassroots community is based out of the CTP Lab at M-ITI.

Jude is supported by ARDITI (Agéncia Regional para o Desenvolvimento da Investigação, Tecnologia e Inovação) with a Ph.D. Studentship. Jude’s background is software development for telecommunication networks and he was for long exploring ways to appropriate telecommunication networks to the communication needs of communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. His work building hyperlocal telecommunication solutions for UNICEF resulted in his encounter with Chris Csíkszentmihályi, who was equally researching into mechanisms for increased inclusion and participation by grassroots communities over electronic communication media.

Jude is currently researching the opportunities, challenges, and perceptions particular to communication technologies that are owned and managed at a hyperlocal level. His work with the RootIO project seeks to hand the control of FM radio to the communities that depend on it the most to understand what usage opportunities may arise with the situation of FM radio at a hyperlocal level. Similarly, he is researching communally owned cellular communication networks and the opportunities to connect some of the regions that have remained largely out of reach for centrally managed multinational telecommunication networks.

His Ph.D. thesis entitled “Augmented Communication Technologies for Distanced Communities” examines the lack of participation in pervasive communication technologies in grassroots and developing contexts and thereby questions the appropriateness of contemporary communication technologies to socially, economically, geographically and politically distanced regions. The goal of his thesis is to inform the design of subsequent communication technologies of the opportunities that are possible if we rethink the power relations inherent in current designs.

Sara Tranquada

Sara Tranquada is a doctoral researcher in Digital Media UT Austin | Portugal program - Faculty of Science and Technology. She develops her work at CTPLab (Critical Technical Practice Laboratory). Sara is a local: born and raised in Madeira, she was a degree and master’s in computer engineering.

Sara is supported by ARDITI (Agéncia Regional para o Desenvolvimento da Investigação, Tecnologia e Inovação), Doctoral Grant under the Project M14-20 - 09-5369-FSE-000001 and recently she was both, awarded with a research grant from UT Austin | Portugal Digital Media Program and was selected to be a future Doctoral Consortium Chair for the ECCE 2019.

While working on her master thesis in 2014, her advisor at the time, Monchu Chen was part of the M-ITI community and introduced her to her peers. M-ITI became the space and environment to finish her masters. She enjoyed working in that institution, and when a summer opportunity appeared, she took it and started to work with Chris Csíkszentmihályi. They shared the same taste in technology and that lead her to pursue a doctoral path in Lisbon with M-ITI as host institution and Chris as her advisor.

Sara is currently working on her Ph.D. thesis entitled “Confronting the Numbers of Women in Technical Fields - Making the Gender Gap in STEM Visible and Debatable” where she is exploring the ways to design artifacts that can generate reflection and debate that might work to express “matters of concern” about gender bias in STEM. “Gender by Numbers” is one artifact that explores if a combined environment (e.g. virtual and physical) could have a critical impact on facilitating a clear observation of the uneven number of genders in the courses the students apply to for college. “Riddle Me This” is the other artifact that explores the cognitive performance of how gender bias influences problem-solving.

Mela Bettega

Mela Bettega is a doctoral researcher in Digital Media UT Austin | Portugal program - Faculty of Science and Technology, supervised by Prof. Teli.

Her Ph.D. project aims at understanding whether it is possible to increase the appropriation of SCT in a certain population, by involving them in a reflexive work on their artefact ecologies. From the methodological perspective, her research can be roughly divided into three main activities:

1. A community study mainly performed through ethnographic methods.

2. A participatory process aiming to get a deep understanding of participants ICTs use, and supporting them in possible changes that are in line with their needs and values. During this phase she plans to I) support participants in designing their current artefact ecologies, including values and motivations behind them; II) understand whether, according to participants, there is something that is worth to change to reach their goals and desires; III) support the design of new artefacts ecologies obtained matching their needs with a map of the current existing sustainable digital tools.

3. An evaluation of the process and of the project effectiveness through interviews and focus groups.

Up to this moment, she nearly completed the community study and started shifting on aspects more strictly related to the participatory process.

The next steps are proceeding with the fieldwork research, writing some other paper as long as the project evolves and finally write and defend the thesis dissertation.

Set aside supporting a lot of bureaucratic aspects and providing a workspace M-ITI was important for three fundamental reasons. First, it gave her the opportunity of working again with Maurizio Teli, which is currently supervising her research as well as supporting in the strategic decisions related to her Ph.D. Second, being here she is having another experience in an interdisciplinary environment, which is helping her to broaden her view on the academic debate, and also on the more concrete aspects of carrying on research fieldwork. Third, she has to acknowledge that despite M-ITI geographic isolation, she actually experienced a better level of academic connection than at Trento University. In particular, she benefited from the talk series organized by Maurizio and Chris, and from the attendance of the open institute and the training school “On the Collaborative Economy. Learning From Critical Perspectives”. These occasions gave her the opportunity to interact with researchers from all around the world. These were great occasions to get a wider overview of various kind of research revolving around ICT but also gave her some more tangible takeaways. In fact, in most of the cases, she had the possibility to book a specific slot to individually discuss her research project with the speakers, which gave her an immediate advantage in terms of feedback and inputs, as well as a potential future gain in term of networking.
Potential Impact:
Institutional Impact

The competitive projects emerging from the ERA Chair team contributed to the turnover of M- ITI (see summary table). The overall competitive budget acquired is around 1M€ (43% from the ERA Chair holder) which is a sound achievement given the highly competitive European and national calls. However, given the funding model of M-ITI, this level of competitive resources is not sufficient to self-sustain the ERA Chair team. M-ITI’s yearly turnover is about 2M€ and the funding acquired for a 3-year period will represent roughly 15% of the current yearly project portfolio (that’s roughly 130K€ / year of overheads). One full professor salary exceeds 82K€ in Portugal. Without the possibility of diversifying funding from teaching (which could naturally occur in the original model of M-ITI and in close collaboration with the U. of Madeira) or through dedicated scientific employment measures (e.g. the FCT funded individual calls for research track positions) the pressures to achieve sustainability required a different strategy.

The proposal of integrating M-ITI into the regional agency for research (ARDITI), which could contribute to partly sustain the personnel costs of the research track faculty, was approved by the collective of researchers and staff and is currently underway. This model will position M-ITI into a wider institutional context which could bring new opportunities for a more distributed sustainability model by drawing and providing career paths that dilute the tensions and focus on a single small institution. This was what M-ITI Advisory Board recommended in 2017 when it identified the escalation of problems with UMa and strongly recommended that new courses of action were explored between (i) “Transfer to the University of Lisbon (while maintaining its physical presence in Madeira)”, (ii) “Become a stand-alone research institution, funded by a combination of regional, governmental, and EU funds” (iii) “Some combination of the two strategies, thereby perhaps allowing more flexibility in structure”. [AB Report 2017]. M-ITI was born in Madeira, where the main campus resides, providing the local and regional context for new research problems and testbeds that take advantage of Madeira’s unique geopolitical location. As stated by our Advisory Board in their 2017 report: “M-ITI’s location gives the Institute a unique status in that it can do its research locally either within Madeira or close by, while guaranteeing that the research will have regional and even global impact.” [AB Report 2017].

The recent approval of the division between ITI (the research unit) and M-ITI (the not-for-profit- institution) enables the research unit to maintain its scientific independence while staying connected to the main stakeholders: LARSyS, the University of Madeira, Instituto Superior Técnico and the other academic institutions - like FBAUL or ISCTE - that would like to benefit from being associated with an excellence research center like LARSyS. This enables faculty from these institutions to have access and recognition of their research performance in their careers, and the institutions to benefit from the accreditation of their academic programs. This distinction also clearly separates the scientific management of the research team and the financial and administrative management of the research grants and projects (including compliance with FCT regulations and legal procedures).

The decision to integrate M-ITI into the Regional Agency for R&D+I (ARDITI) is currently under evaluation by the associates and will provide an important landmark for the R&D panorama of the region of Madeira bringing together several research units into a common hosting institution controlled by the autonomous government of Madeira.

Human Resources Impact

leapFROG itself provided an important increase of 20% of Researchers with a Ph.D. (the ERA Chair holder and his team) and through their projects another number of post-docs (three on average). The impact in terms of Ph.D. students was lower with an increase of 10%, notably most of the Design Ph.D. students are now enrolled in Portuguese Ph.D. programs.

Research Outputs

Although leapFROG also supported conference publications to the wider M-ITI community the contribution of the ERA Chair team was on average 10% of the M-ITI overall scientific productivity.

Project Turnover Impact

leapFROG itself provided an important component of international funding for the institute reaching almost 30% of the annual turnover.

The contribution of the ERA Chair team in the last two years. While leapFROG contributed to almost 30% of the project turnover of M-ITI the ERA Chair team was able to provide an increase of 10% of additional funding since 2017.

In the last two years. while leapFROG contributed to almost 30% of the project turnover of M-ITI the ERA Chair team was able to provide an increase of 10% of additional funding since 2017.

Overall leapFROG had a significant impact in M-ITI over the period of 2014-2018, directly through the grant itself and indirectly after the ERA Chair team started to bring additional funds to M-ITI.
List of Websites:

Contact Details:
General MITI:
Coordinator: Nuno Nunes (
Project Manager: Cátia Jardim (
Financial Manager: Carlos Gomes (
ERA Chair: Christopher Csikszentmihalyi (