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Amazon Web Services, Google, And Deepmind Support Launch Of The First Of Its Kind AI And Computer Science Institute In Eastern Europe

INSAIT, a new Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology, has launched in Bulgaria. The Institute aims to advance the state of the art of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computing at large through open research and will be the first in the region to offer research facilities and compensation on a par with leading global scientific research centres. With the backing of the Bulgarian government as well as technology innovators Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and DeepMind, the Institute’s objective is to establish a world-class research centre, a tipping point in efforts to create a competitive high-tech economy that attracts, develops, and retains talent.

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INSAIT has been created in partnership with two of the world’s leading technology universities, ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne. Its aim is to become a leading scientific institute for computer science and AI and a research powerhouse in these rapidly expanding technology fields. INSAIT is located in Sofia, Bulgaria, ranked as one of Europe’s top tech cities, and is supervised and advised by world-renowned scientists from ETH Zurich, EPFL, IST Austria, MIT, UC Berkeley, Yale, Princeton, and the Technion.

Thanks to financial support from AWS, Google, DeepMind, and the Bulgarian government, INSAIT will be able to build world-class research and educational programs spanning the foundations and applications of artificial intelligence and computer science, including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, information security, programming languages, formal methods, quantum computing, and computer architecture, among others. The support will help INSAIT attract world-class faculty in these areas and train the next generation of thought leaders, highly-qualified researchers, and engineers, creating more job opportunities in the region, and providing an ideal environment to support deep tech startups and entrepreneurs. Such is the belief in the INSAIT mission that tech company SiteGround, as well as a number of Bulgarian entrepreneurs, are providing more than $7 million in support.

Until now, brain drain has thwarted innovation in Eastern Europe, with highly qualified people moving to the West to study and advance their career. Around 30,000 Bulgarian people leave the country every year in search of better prospects. As the first research centre in the region to provide world-class research environments and globally competitive salaries, INSAIT offers attractive career prospects in a burgeoning industry, attracting researchers from abroad and encouraging top young talent to stay in the country, a step that will have significant economic and social impact in Eastern Europe.

INSAIT’s architect is Prof. Martin Vechev, a leading computer scientist, a full professor at ETH Zurich, and an ELLIS fellow (European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems). He commented: “Eastern Europe is full of bright scientific minds – but too often, people’s aspirations are limited due to lack of facilities, funding and support. This has resulted in a ‘brain drain’ away from Eastern Europe, a systemic problem that is discouraging innovation. INSAIT is perfectly placed to reverse this trend and compete on a worldwide scale.

“AWS, Google, and DeepMind understand the importance of bridging science and technological divides between East and West to promote inclusive economic growth and recovery, democratise science and attract top talent focused on solving some of AI’s hardest challenges. We also have their support in promoting diversity and inclusion in science, by encouraging applications from women and other underrepresented groups in technology and science.”

Amazon Web Services intends to provide $3,75M over the next five years to support INSAIT’s research on Automated Reasoning, the algorithmic search for proof in mathematical logic. Automated Reasoning is currently being used by AWS in a range of customer solutions, including Provable Security, a solution that provides higher assurance in security in the cloud. Google is also investing $3 million over three years to provide INSAIT with cloud compute resources and access to its Tensor Processing Unit Research Cloud, specialised infrastructure for running high-performance machine learning models. In addition, DeepMind is investing $285,000 to fund two PhD scholarships for women, which is a great match for a country with the highest percentage of women in information technology, from academic to industrial positions. The combined investment from AWS, Google, and DeepMind will help INSAIT accomplish its transformative mission by attracting and supporting world-class scientists and outstanding doctoral students.

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Byron Cook, Vice President and Distinguished Scientist at Amazon Web Services (AWS) said: “At any given moment today, scientists, engineers and software developers are creating the next innovation that will change our lives forever. At AWS we are committed to help individuals acquire new skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow. With the launch of INSAIT in Sofia, we look forward to equipping the future workforce with advanced automated reasoning skills and research, and help foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will benefit society as a whole.”

Jeff Dean, Senior Fellow at Google, said: “Google is very proud to support the work of INSAIT. Eastern Europe has an incredible talent pool of computer scientists and engineers, and we want to help INSAIT become a world-class facility, attracting top researchers from within the region and further afield. There’s so much more work to be done in AI and computer science, and initiatives like these are crucial to ensuring that technology can benefit everyone. I can’t wait to see the groundbreaking work to come from INSAIT!”

INSAIT has also received a 10-year initial endowment of almost $100m from the Bulgarian government. The unanimous ratification by the parliament of the international agreement with ETH Zurich, EPFL, and Sofia University is the first time that scientific research in computer science has received public funding and support in Eastern Europe, setting a precedent for the country and the region.

Joël Mesot, President of ETH Zurich, commented: “Science builds cultural bridges – something the world needs now more than ever. I am delighted that ETH Zurich, through our professors’ partnerships with the INSAIT, can contribute to strengthening scientific ties with Bulgaria and Europe.”

Martin Vetterli, President of EPFL in Lausanne, proudly points at EPFL’s ongoing dedication to support high-level research in technology in Eastern Europe: “It shows that we believe in the potential of countries such as Bulgaria to become major players of the academic landscape in the future, especially in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.”

Key facts about INSAIT:

  • INSAIT is a pioneering effort by the Bulgarian government, created in partnership with two of the world’s leading research universities, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich and EPFL, who will closely advise the institute.
  • The signed partnership was ratified by the Bulgarian parliament in September 2021 with a unanimous vote and support from all political parties, in a landmark precedent for Eastern Europe.
  • INSAIT is located in Sofia, Bulgaria, an attractive city to live in and ranked as one of Europe’s top tech cities. The institute will open in September 2022.
  • It is modelled on other computer science departments of top universities such as MIT, UC Berkeley, ETH, Technion, Max-Planck and others.
  • Its computer science and AI research will span key topics such as machine learning, quantum computing, information security, robotics, and many more.
  • Within two years, INSAIT expects faculty and students to publish papers in top conferences, starting to build its world-class status.
  • In ten years, the aim is for INSAIT to be ranked as one of the world’s leading institutions for computer science and AI research.

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