The Image Processing Laboratory (IPL) of the University of Valencia will coordinate all actions related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth and Climate Sciences within the European ELISE project. Financed with 12 million euros by the European Commission, led by Aalto University (Finland) and made up of 23 research organisations, ELISE will constitute a research centre of excellence for AI development in Europe.
Machine learning has triggered the current revolution in Artificial Intelligence, which has impacted all associated disciplines, such as computer vision and sensory processing, data science, symbolic reasoning, robotics, or human-machine interaction. The separation between academic and industrial research is increasingly blurred thanks to the rapid and extensive process of knowledge transfer that is taking place in this field and which has led to the need to strengthen the excellence of European research in order to remain competitive.
In this sense, the European Commission is investing in the development of AI research networks; and in its first major call – ICT-48 (H2020) – it has green-lighted the ELISE project (European Learning and Intelligent Systems Excellence), an open and decentralised international collaboration for basic and applied research in AI, where the University of Valencia has an important role.
The initiative, funded with 12 million euros, is supported by the ELLIS network, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems, which aims to attract and retain talent to compete with China and the United States in Artificial Intelligence. “ELLIS is driven by excellence and is an open network, which is just what Europe needs; we are playing for the team in Europe”, says Samuel Kasko, researcher at Aalto University in Finland, director of the Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence FCAi and principal researcher of the project.
Following this line, ELISE will constitute a research centre of excellence that will bring together more than 200 researchers and a hundred organisations and companies that will work, from different aspects of AI – 15 programs –, both in research and in attracting talent and the transfer of knowledge to industry. Each program will bring together the most prominent AI centres and researchers, to tackle the main scientific and technological challenges that Europe must face and that will boost its role in the world.
The project is made up of 23 leading academic and industrial centres in Artificial Intelligence in Europe: Aalto University (Aalto) [coordinator], University of Tübingen (EKUT), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Czech Technical University (CTU), Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Johannes Kepler Universität (JKU), University of Cambridge (UC), Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale Per L’informatica (CINI), University of Valencia (UVEG), Max Planck Society (MPG), Radboud University Nijmegen (RU), ETH Zürich (ETH), Oxford University (UOXF), University College London (UCL), Knowledge 4 all Foundation (K4A), Saidot OY (saidot), Oticon S/A (Oticon), FundingBox Accelerator (FBA), Siemens AG (Siemens), Zalando SE (Zalando), Fraunhofer (FRA), Spinverse (SPV), EnliteAi (Enlite). The scientific excellence of its researchers is beyond doubt, since they monopolise a total of 60 prestigious ERC scholarships, have an h index of scientific impact above 60 and lead European research in AI.
The University of Valencia in ELISE
The University of Valencia – one of the 23 key centres of the project– will participate in a scientific programme aimed at improving climate models and the analysis of data from the Earth system. Gustau Camps-Valls, professor of Electronic Engineering and researcher at the Image Processing Laboratory (IPL) of the University of Valencia, at the Science Park of the academic institution, will coordinate the activities related to IA for Earth and Climate sciences. “Understanding and modelling the Earth system is one of the fundamental objectives facing humanity. The European Research Council and now the European Union have considered so. Now we have access to a lot of data and precise simulation models that, through Artificial Intelligence, allow us to attack the problem. It is a new approach and one of the most relevant applications of AI today”, says the scientist. “The project will put Europe’s best scientific capabilities and values in AI and Earth and Climate Sciences in direct contact, to attack one of humanity’s most pressing problems, climate change”, he concludes. Gustau Camps-Valls is the holder of two projects of the European Research Council (ERC): a Consolidator Grant obtained in 2015 and a Synergy Grant of 2019 endowed with 10 million euros, both at the intersection of machine learning and atmosphere and biosphere physics.
The objectives of ELISE
ELISE is a network of centres with global aspirations, but locally anchored. Like its very nature, the objectives of ELISE are open, decentralised and collaborative.
The project will implement six streams of activities to achieve different objectives. It will create and execute a European Strategic Research Agenda in AI; it will design a mobility program for experienced researchers to foster new ideas and collaborations; will launch a doctoral and postdoctoral program with strong industrial connections; will connect researchers to resource owners; it will increase innovations by providing experience and networking to industrial actors, and will disseminate knowledge among academic organisations, industry and society.
Furthermore, within the dynamics of ELLIS, ELISE will invest efforts in attracting and retaining talent, both from experienced researchers and at the training level. It will establish a network of excellent researchers and iconic laboratories locally around Europe, as well as an attractive training network for junior scientists; it will strengthen ties with industry and disseminate its knowledge and research methods among industry and society.