Mykolas Romeris University leads higher-education innovations for global sustainability

Mykolas Romeris University is a key driver of the innovation ecosystem with three missions: Education, research, and commercialisation of research results, usually in partnership with businesses.

Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) is the leading university in social sciences and interdisciplinary research in Vilnius, Lithuania.

MRU offers study programmes in a wide range of study fields, including: Law, psychology, communication, informatics, philology, social work, management, economics, finance, public administration, and more. Within these fields, MRU provides a selection of 40 study programmes at different academic levels: 12 at bachelor level, 18 at master level, two LL.M., one MBA, six at doctoral level, and one minor study for those wanting to improve their English before starting the programme.

Expanding social innovation

Social innovation is a broad concept that has been explored at MRU from the perspective of various academic disciplines. Sustainable innovation includes introducing ideas, concepts, practices, and products that contribute to the green environment, social cohesion, and economic viability. The social innovations laboratory network at MRU serves as a central hub for social innovation. Interdisciplinary and cross-cutting research fosters new partnerships and innovative solutions.

Today’s university is open to partnerships with both business and public sectors. Academics build co-operation and create solutions in local and national ecosystems. However, it is not isolated fields nor distinct disciplines that can respond to today’s challenges, but rather their coherence. Societal challenges in education, environment, cyber security, communication, and other areas require the insights of experts from different disciplines. MRU is proud to have research carried out in almost all fields; therefore, the academic potential for partnerships and joint projects is enormous.

A great example of collaboration between science and business is the establishment of the Australian-Lithuanian Cyber Research Network (ALCRN) in 2022 by Mykolas Romeris University and RMIT University (Australia). The launch of ALCRN took place in Melbourne and was attended by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis. The same year, MRU and RMIT University opened the first Australian-Lithuanian Hybrid Threat Centre. Hybrid threats are complex phenomena that pose challenges to countries and institutions that are considered opponents or competitors of someone’s interests and goals. Researchers from MRU and RMIT University – MRU Professor Darius Štitilis, Associate Professor Marius Laurinaitis, and Director of the RMIT University Centre of Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CCSRI) Professor Matthew Warren – are conducting research on hybrid cyber threats generated by AI. The most common use of AI is to generate deceptive content, i.e. to spread disinformation, which has become part of hybrid-cyber warfare. Research results are presented at international conferences and published in internationally recognised scientific journals.

MRU researchers Professor Darius Štitilis and Associate Professor Marius Laurinaitis initiated a consortium in the theme ‘E-Safe and Inclusive Society’, and this consortium (consisting of research institutions, business enterprises, and associations) was approved as the winner in this theme in Lithuania. Significant funding will be granted for the activities of the consortium.

For the first time in Lithuania, a major mission-driven project is being launched to invest in science and innovation, bringing together MRU scientists and entrepreneurs to develop high-level products, services, and technologies. In addition to creating a Cyber Security Center of Excellence, the development of seven individual projects is planned. Moreover, the University’s scientists are elaborating seven separate projects which will be jointly developed with business entities and research institutions. The projects’ objectives relate to the development and commercialisation of products in the field of cyber security and AI, i.e. sensors installed in critical infrastructure and, with the help of AI, could identify and combat cyber threats, form innovative smart home decisions; bring hybrid threat innovations to testing and uptake platform; and create an espionage prevention monitoring systemto name a few.

MRU will contribute to the development of four projects through its research in the fields of personal data protection, cyber security, and AI. Additionally, along with other consortium members, the university is expected to help increase the value added by the ICT sector to 5.1% of GDP by 2030. This project also aims to help Lithuania appear amongst the top five countries according to the EU’s cyber security index, increase the number of public services delivered electronically, and to train citizens to identify cyber-attacks and misleading information.

Professor Dr Inga Žalėnienė, Rector of Mykolas Romeris University, strongly believes that university alliances and collaborative networks of like-minded scientists and strong leadership examples will provide more opportunities for international research teams to explore complex problems and challenges.

Dr Inga Žalėnienė, MRU Rector, Vice-President of International Association of Universities (IAU), Board Member of European Women Rectors Association (EWORA), said: “Together we can create solutions that are not only commercially viable, but also environmentally sustainable and socially impactful, and we can create a culture of innovation that transcends borders and sets the benchmark for global partnerships.”

Another excellent example of how expertise, scientific knowledge and understanding of global processes and developments contribute to scientific progress and innovation in the environmental field are the activities of the MRU Environmental Management Research Laboratory led by Professor Paulo Alexandre Da Silva Pereira. The professor, with his team, conducts cutting-edge research in ecosystem services in urban, agricultural, freshwater, coastal, and marine realms. According to the Stanford-Elsevier ranking, the professor is in the top 2% of the most cited scientists.

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Professor Dr Inga Žalėnienė

Modern technology (for example, drones, and advanced laboratory analysis) is used to observe the consequences of human activity on ecosystems at high resolution and make assessments of the possible effects on their wellbeing. This is essential for understanding the scope of influence that human actions have on the degradation or prosperity of the ecosystem. MRU scientist, Prof Pereira, is dedicated to researching the intricate dynamics of ecosystems, encompassing climate change, land use alterations, degradation, nature-based solutions, ecosystem services, and the consequences of fires on these delicate environments, and he is achieving this through a collaboration of researchers from world universities (e.g., University of Lisbon, University of Barcelona, University of Trento,  Rey Juan Carlos University, Copenhagen University, Wageningen University) and other global institutions (e.g., Beijing Normal University, China, and the University of La Fronters, Chile) while conducting Horizon Projects.

The research process is iterative, and ongoing studies contribute to a deeper understanding of ecosystem dynamics. This multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach is necessary to address the complex and interconnected issues surrounding ecosystems and their responses to environmental changes.

Professor Paulo Pereira, said: “By engaging with ecosystem research, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability, responsible corporate citizenship, and support for science-based decision-making. Collaboration between the business sector and the research community can lead to innovative solutions for addressing complex ecosystem challenges.”

Participation in the UNESCO Chairs program is conceived by Mykolas Romeris University as a way to advance research, training, and programme development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university co-operation through the transfer of knowledge across borders. MRU supports UNESCO’s activities in the fields of education, social sciences, humanities, and communication to address current challenges and contribute to societal development. It is ready to contribute at every stage of the overarched goal; from researching new issues and developing international normative documents to implementing policy recommendations at the national level.

Leading the UNESCO Chair on AI, emerging technologies, and innovations for society, as well as being a board member of the Artificial Intelligence Association of Lithuania, Professor Paulius Pakutinskas is deeply engaged in exploring regulatory and ethical dimensions related to new technologies and challenges posed by AI – with specific attention to the medical and military domains. Pakutinskas’s interdisciplinary research, projects, and publications converge on the interrelation of law, business, emerging technologies, and innovations. His contributions span diverse fields, including AI, ICT, emerging and disruptive technologies, cybersecurity, control of harmful content, and internet governance. His focus extends beyond Lithuania and the European Union, encompassing a global perspective. Collaborating with over 15 universities, he actively contributes to initiatives promoting the sustainable development of Artificial Intelligence.

The greatest strength of research at MRU is the university’s ability to respond to an increasingly globalised and competitive climate, dynamically adjusting research priorities and promoting further scientific development both nationally and internationally, and to serve as a notable academic and innovations developer, seamlessly bridging theoretical knowledge with practical applications.

Please note, this article will also appear in the sixteenth edition of our quarterly publication.

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