• AI Beacon for Berlin: Millions in funding from the German Federal Government and State of Berlin

Berlin is emerging as a beacon for cutting-edge AI research. “Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data” (BIFOLD) is the new organisation that the Berlin Big Data Center (BBDC) and the Berlin Center for Machine Learning (BZML) are combining to form. The German Federal government is funding BIFOLD through late 2022 with a total of 32 million euros. Berlin is financing the creation of 8 new AI professorships.

Berlin is emerging as a beacon for cutting-edge AI research. The new institution for cutting-edge AI research is called the “Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data” (BIFOLD). As the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced today along with the Berlin Senate Chancellery and the Technische Universität, both of the existing AI centres of competence of the Technische Universität Berlin, the Berlin Big Data Center (BBDC), and the Berlin Center for Machine Learning (BZML) are merging. Collaborations with additional Berlin-based partner institutions are set to be expanded.

The goal of the project is to create a research centre of international standing and visibility in Brain City Berlin, which will closely intertwine research, training, and innovations at the interface of big data and machine learning. A key point is to bring leading AI heads to Berlin and to educate urgently needed AI experts. The “AI beacons for the environment, climate, nature, and resources” funding initiative is a cornerstone of the national AI strategy for Germany presented by the Federal Government in November 2018. BIFOLD is to be jointly led by Dr Volker Markl, Director of Database Systems and Information Management and by Prof. Dr Klaus-Robert Müller, Director of Machine Learning at TU Berlin.

For the new Berlin AI beacon, the Federal Ministry of Research is increasing the existing funding of the BZML and BBDC by an additional 18 million euros. Overall, BIFOLD will receive around 32 million euros in federal funds between 2019 and 2022. The State of Berlin is supporting the new institute with 3.5 million euros. This sum from the current State budget is to be used to finance the establishment of eight new AI professorships at the Technische Universität Berlin and at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Anja Karliczek, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, described the merger of the two Berlin AI competence centres into BIFOLD as a milestone in the implementation of Germany’s AI strategy: “BIFOLD will also focus on research on transparency and explicability of AI systems, as well as ethical aspects. That is what sets us apart from AI research locations on other continents,” the Minister explained. She emphasized the importance of excellent research for Germany’s growth into a leading location for AI. 

Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller underscored the major role of the German capital in research on artificial intelligence in Germany. BIFOLD is set to be the next big step in this direction. “To make this a reality, we are establishing additional professorships and will also make greater use of the existing synergies in Berlin’s AI research.” Berlin already has a unique ecosystem of institutions and hundreds of scientists who are researching and teaching AI in a wide variety of fields. “This represents a huge potential that we are developing together.”

Prof. Dr Christian Thomsen, President of the Technische Universität Berlin, emphasized that it is important and correct to research and develop the technological foundations of AI not only at private corporations, but also very significantly at public universities as well. “Technological progress today is much more intertwined with social debates dealing with regulation, transparency, and responsibility,” said Thomsen.

In addition to BIFOLD, the Federal Ministry of Research funds five other AI competence centres in Germany: at universities in Munich, Tübingen, Dortmund/Bonn, and Dresden/Leipzig, and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. The funding of 64 million euros originally planned for the centres for the years 2019 to 2022 has been doubled. (vdo)

Berlin-based AI Beacon BIFOLD

 3 significant goals

  • Funding top-level research in the fields of big data and machine learning, as well as at their interfaces
  • Development of technologies, tools, and systems to firmly establish AI in science as well as in business and society
  • Education and training of AI experts urgently needed around the world

5 key topics

  • Theoretical foundations and scientific methods of big data management and machine learning
  • Management of data science processes and systems
  • Data architecture and data technologies
  • Explainable artificial intelligence
  • Technologies and tools for new applications in science and industry

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