Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft joins Cyber Valley

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft joins Cyber Valley
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Cooperation between Germany’s leading research institutions further strengthens Baden-Württemberg as a global hotspot for research on artificial intelligence

Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has joined the Cyber Valley research consortium, which includes the Universities of Tübingen and Stuttgart, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, and several of the world’s top industry players. For Baden-Württemberg, the cooperation reaffirms the region’s position as one of the world’s leading AI hotspots. Founded by the Fraunhofer Institutes IPA and IAO, the AI innovation center Learning Systems offers medium-sized companies a central point of contact for applied research on artificial intelligence.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO have joined Cyber Valley, further strengthening Europe’s largest research consortium in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The tie-up demonstrates once again that Baden-Württemberg is the AI hotspot in Europe, on a par with some of the world’s leading centers, for instance in North America.

“Artificial intelligence is a key driver of innovation and economic growth and holds enormous economic potential for our small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut. “We need more 'AI made in Baden-Württemberg' and we need to bring the results of our cutting-edge research even better and faster into the practical application of our companies. To this end, we must make massive progress in the research, development and commercialisation of artificially intelligent systems.

Baden-Württemberg's Science Minister Theresia Bauer added: “An internationally visible AI hotspot is created here. We warmly welcome the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to the ever-growing circle! The Cyber Valley research network is developing very dynamically and is attracting more and more scientists, young talents from all across the world, companies and foundations. The boom has created the need to establish reliable management structures for the Cyber Valley network in order to effectively manage the growing organizational tasks.”

"With their application-oriented focus, the Fraunhofer Institutes ideally complement the research of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the universities of Tübingen and Stuttgart", said Professor Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society. "Fraunhofer’s engagement makes it easier to bridge the gap to the industrial partners within Cyber Valley: in this way, findings from basic research can be applied more quickly."

Professor Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, emphasized: "Artificial intelligence is one of the central digital issues of the future and will change our lives from the ground up. For the international economy and industrial value chains, it means a fundamental structural change. By joining Cyber Valley, together with our partners we will advance research and transfer from science to the market in order to fully exploit the potential of this key technology and strengthen Germany as a location for international competition.”

"We very much welcome the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s participation, as it will help us apply the methods of modern AI, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises", said Professor Bernhard Schölkopf, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and co-founder of Cyber Valley.

Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are cofinancing the AI innovation center Learning Systems (KI-Fortschrittszentrum “Lernende Systeme”), which was incorporated into the Cyber Valley research consortium from October 1, 2019. The center is a laboratory with an initial team of 20 researchers and a planned funding of ten million euros until the end of 2022.

Central point of contact for application-oriented AI research

For companies in Baden-Württemberg, the AI innovation center is a central point of contact for application-oriented research on artificial intelligence. The center explores applied research projects relevant to the manufacturing and service industries. It also acts as an interface between industry and the fundamental research conducted within the Cyber Valley consortium (the Universities of Tübingen and Stuttgart, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, and several industry partners). The aim is to enable technology transfer to industry beyond the existing partners.

As another component, joint research labs will be set up in which fundamental researchers will cooperate with more application-focused scientists at IPA or IAO. The projects will not be initiated by companies, but rather based on assessments of what the market needs. These joint research labs may thus bear the greatest potential for future start-ups.

Direct cooperation with industry is a central focus of the AI innovation center. Feasibility studies and the development of prototypes of AI applications are partly financed by the innovation center’s budget. To establish strategic partnerships, industrial companies have the opportunity to operate and finance Enterprise Labs. At these labs, one or more researchers within the innovation center can give their full attention to the respective company’s specific needs. In all its activities, the AI innovation center Learning Systems aims to implement human-centered AI that people trust and accept. The full po-tential of AI can only be realized once people interact and work closely with new technology. To realize human-centered AI, research activities focus on topics such as ex-plainability, privacy, safety, and the robustness of AI technologies.

Benefit to industry and society

With Cyber Valley, partners from science, business, and society are building a unique research ecosystem in the Stuttgart-Tübingen region. Supported by the state of Baden-Württemberg, Cyber Valley promotes an active exchange between science and industry. The initiative also focuses on training the best minds in the field of AI and creating a breeding ground for start-ups. The aim is to combine cutting-edge research with entrepreneurial spirit to promote spin-offs and technology transfer.

The cooperation of the two Fraunhofer institutes and Cyber Valley is thus a major source of potential for all parties involved. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has a 70-year history of ex-cellence in business-oriented research. Its 72 institutes work closely with small and me-dium sized enterprises, commonly referred to as the “German Mittelstand”, as well as with larger local and international enterprises. This expertise in realizing projects in close cooperation with industry is of immense value to Cyber Valley. With its proven track record of many successful start-ups, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft joining Cyber Valley will further enhance the research consortium’s innovative and entrepreneurial strength. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft actively supports researchers who want to start their own companies based on the intellectual property they have developed while working with Fraunhofer. The mission of bringing technological progress to companies and society is firmly anchored in the Fraunhofer mission statement.

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