Eight years ago I was writing a post saying goodbye to Nantes and hello to Barcelona. Today, it’s time to say goodbye to Barcelona and hello to Luxembourg where I started on March 1st as head of the new Software Engineering RDI Unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).
I waited to write this announcement until I could also publicly say something about the main reason that motivated to leave Barcelona (and UOC and ICREA and the friends & family behind). And this reason is called BESSER.
The BESSER project
BESSER is an FNR-funded PEARL project that stands for BEtter Smart Software fastER (BESSER) – An Intelligent low-code infrastructure for smart software. BESSER is hosted via a joint structural collaboration lead by LIST and with the participation of SnT/UL, it has the aim to combine both strategic research and applied research. The results of BESSER will have a strong scientific, technical and economic impact by expanding the number of potential smart software creators, increasing the quality and reducing the time-to-market for this type of software. This project can democratize the creation of smart software, a key benefit in the current developers’ shortage. Moreover, by simplifying the specification and testing of ethical concerns, BESSER can also play a role in the fair use of AI in software, a major societal challenge. Overall, I strongly believe BESSER will significantly improve the competitiveness of Luxembourgian and, in general, European companies in the global market.
Software is becoming a true foundation of modern society. It is disrupting century-old industries, such as car manufacturing, and is itself being disrupted by new discoveries such as generative AI models. Jordi and the BESSER project will contribute to position Luxembourg and the LIST as a global centre of excellence in the future of software. I am thrilled at the perspective of being part of this journey. – Francesco Ferrero, Director of the IT for Innovative Services department at LIST said
The executive summary of the project is the following:
A profound digital transformation is underway, disrupting all organizational activities and processes that must adapt to fully leverage the many opportunities this digital revolution enables in every business sector.
Software is the underlying infrastructure powering this transformation. Therefore, the ability to produce software is a strategic economic capability. And yet, software development is in a permanent state of crisis. Improvements in tools, languages and methods have not been able to keep up with the increasing complexity, demands and trust we expect from all running software. And a number of factors (industry 4.0, smart systems, lack of highly-skilled digital talent, software sustainability) are tensioning even more this situation.
All this challenges in engineering software is not only putting at risk European innovation but it can also have ethical implications if aspects such as fairness and accountability are not properly addressed. Clearly, we need to be able to build better software faster. Better refers to secure, reliable and trustworthy systems. Faster involves shorter time to market, even by non-technical experts.
But incremental improvements on current tools and techniques will not be enough. Instead, this proposal advocates for a radical shift in the way software systems are engineered. Our vision involves an ambitious and innovative multi-dimensional and cross-disciplinary research agenda.
By relying on a combination of contributions to the fields of:
- Artificial Intelligence. Machine Learning techniques can be applied to assist engineering tasks such as effort estimation, program synthesis, fault prediction or test selection… , and
- Model-driven engineering (MDE) and low-code development. MDE is a software development paradigm where software and system models (i.e. useful abstractions focusing on a specific perspective of the modeled element, e.g. its structure or behaviour) rather than source code are the core asset. Low-code can be regarded as a specific style of MDE aimed at dramatically reducing the amount of code to be written during development.
we are proposing the design and implementation of BESSER, the first intelligent low-code platform, as a flexible and general infrastructure to model, generate, personalize and properly evolve the smart and complex software systems required by our society, industry and public administration.
For complex domains (like the energy or space sectors), specific extensions to the core platform will be developed, to adapt the platform languages and smart assistants to better cover the needs of those sectors. Instead, for other application domains, especially data-intensive ones like FinTech, we propose to go even beyond a low-code perspective and have the intelligent assistant embedded in the platform to automatically derive a prototype version of the system-to-be-built, based on the analysis of available information in the organization. This will empower any citizen, non-technical person (or even SMEs with a lack of tech profiles) interested in developing or adapting her own smart software components.
I am glad that we could convince Prof. Jordi Cabot to develop his research and innovation activities at LIST through an FNR PEARL Chair. His work on smart software generation, leveraging AI advancements, has ground-breaking potential and will further reinforce Luxembourg’s position in this important area.Marc Schiltz, CEO of the Luxembourg National Research Fund
Sounds interesting? Get in touch!
If you’re a practitioner that wants to better understand how low-code could help your company, a tool vendor looking to extend your development platform or a researcher interested in collaborating on this topic, just get in touch. BESSER is a 5-year project, so there will be plenty of opportunities to find a collaboration model that works for you.