Towards a national AI ecosystem


150 visitors gathered Friday Octobre 19th for ‘ICAI: AI for the Netherlands’, organized by the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). This afternoon 11 speakers from universities, companies and governmental institutes showed the diversity of areas in which AI research is present nowadays, from predicting diseases, the engineering of automated cars, solving cybercrime, to the search and recommend tools of Albert Heijn. This diversity will only increase in the years to come. There was a general positivity. “AI talent and technology in the Netherlands put us in the world’s top ranked countries in terms of innovation power”, according to Alexander van Boetzelaer (Executive Vice President Strategy at Elsevier).

But it was also an afternoon of warnings, because if the Netherlands doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities that AI offers our society, it will fall behind very badly. In the words of Vladimir Putin (as professor Holger Hoos from Leiden University quoted): ‘‘Whoever becomes the leader of AI will become the ruler of the world.” Although Hoos usually doesn’t quote Putin he says that this time “he is quite right”.

“If we want to play a role in Europe, a single university won’t make a difference. We have to connect with each other”, as Inald Lagendijk (Wetenschappelijk boegbeeld TopTeam ICT) put it. The word ‘ecosystem’ was mentioned a lot by the different speakers: an open AI ecosystem in which the whole of the Netherlands participates.

ICAI, as an open network of cooperating AI innovation Labs, will help strengthen this ecosystem and accelerate innovation. This way we can keep the AI talent in the Netherlands, combine excellence and will not become dependent on AI made elsewhere. “The entrance ticket to ICAI is easy”, says Maarten de Rijke (one of the ICAI founders): “Start a lab. ICAI started half a year ago with 2 knowledge institutes and three companies. Right now seven knowledge institutes, 5 companies and 2 government institutions are involved. In the beginning there were three labs and now there are four running labs with three potential new labs, among which a Police Lab and a Startup Lab. The aim for the next ICAI update meeting is 13 labs. Only one thing to do: Let us get down to work.”

New Elsevier AI Lab

ICAI and information analytics business Elsevier announce the opening of the Elsevier AI Lab. The lab underscores the impact of academic-industry collaboration to strengthen the Netherlands’ global position in Artificial Intelligence.

As a true win-win situation, the collaboration allows Elsevier’s data scientists to work closer with data scientists in academia, contribute to education and science, and pursue a PhD. Academics in turn gain a better understanding of how AI is used to innovate research platforms to solve real-world societal problems. Through this multi-year partnership ICAI gains a focussed environment for AI researchers to help solve challenging, real-world problems in collaboration with an AI industry front runner. ICAI in turn brings state-of-the-art AI technology and insights to Elsevier.

Alexander van Boetzelaer, Executive Vice President at Elsevier said: “VU and UvA together, via ICAI and the Amsterdam Data Science initiative, are very strong AI players in the region with international reputation. Teaming up with these formidable organizations demonstrates our commitment to strengthen the Netherlands as technology hotspot globally and adds to the impact academic-corporate collaborations can have.”

Elsevier’s involvement in this initiative fits with the prominence it has gained in recent years as an industry leader in Artificial Intelligence. This is demonstrated best through its Artificial Intelligence Program, which undertakes to build a comprehensive global examination of artificial intelligence by combining semantic research with insights from AI experts, practitioners and policy makers. The program will publish a comprehensive report in late 2018 which will be freely available.

Scientific Directors of Elsevier AI Lab:

Paul Groth, professor of algorithmic data science at the University of Amsterdam.
Frank van Harmelen, professor in knowledge representation & reasoning at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Paul Groth

Frank van Harmelen

Ilya Markov appointed Scientific Manager of AIRLab Amsterdam

Credit: Xinyi Li

We are happy to announce that from October 1st 2018 Ilya Markov joined the AI for Retail Lab (AIRLab) Amsterdam as Scientific Lab Manager. Markov has also been appointed as Assistant Professor at the Informatics Institute, University of Amsterdam. His work at AIRLab – a joint UvA-Ahold Delhaize industry lab – will consist of supervising multiple workstreams and PhD students and exploring new scientific opportunities within this collaboration. In his new role as a lab director, he will conduct research into socially responsible algorithms that can be used to make recommendations to consumers and into transparent AI technology for managing goods flows. This research will take place at Albert Heijn and, both brands of Ahold Delhaize.

Markov holds a BSc and MSc, with a major in Computer Science and Software Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. He got his PhD (2014) at the Information Retrieval Group from the University of Lugano (USI) on the topic of uncertainty in distributed information retrieval. After that, he became a postdoctoral researcher at the Information and Language Processing Systems group (ILPS) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), where he worked on user behavior models and algorithms that learn from users in information retrieval. Markov has been extensively involved in supervision of undergraduate students and PhD students and gained industry experience by collaborating with companies such as Yandex and JetBrains.

Read more on AIRLab here

Hinda Haned from Ahold Delhaize appointed professor

Credit: Dirk Gilissen

Hinda Haned, principal scientist at Ahold Delhaize, has been named professor by special appointment of Data Science at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Faculty of Science. As professor at UvA, Haned will focus on fair and responsible data science and machine learning. Haned has been lead data scientist at Ahold Delhaize since 2015 and principal scientist since 2018. Her activities at Ahold Delhaize involve designing and building solutions to answer business questions with data mining and machine learning techniques. Read more

Erasmus Descartes Conference 2018 – Artificial Intelligence

On 15 and 16 November 2018 the Erasmus-Descartes Conference will take place in Paris, organised by the Dutch embassy in cooperation with the French embassy in the Netherlands. A total of 150 experts from the private sector, civil society organisations and the public sector have been invited to take part in this year’s conference, which will focus, after Big Data in 2017, on Artificial Intelligence in 2018. Max Welling and Arnold Smeulders will give presentations on the 15th.

More info

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Welcome to the ICAI Meetup

ICAI now has a meetup, see Interested in the use of artificial intelligence for innovation? The first edition of the meetup will be on September 14, at Ahold Delhaize.

The AIRLab is looking for five PhD students

The AIRLab has just opened five vacancies for PhD students. The general area is AI for Retail, and the lab is looking to fill the positions as soon as possible.  Areas range from recommendation to federated search and conversational search to replenishment. Please see this page for more details.

ICAI Lecture by Ramesh Jain

On Wednesday 4 July 2018, Ramesh Jain (Institute for Future Health, Department of Computer Science, University of California) will give the inaugural ICAI lecture A Navigational Approach to Health.

What if an app could guide you to better health, similar to how GPS navigation directs you to your desired destination? Advances in sensors, mobile computing, artificial intelligence, data management, cloud computing, biology, and medicine allow approaching human health from a novel navigational perspective. (more…)

The AIRLab is looking for a director

The AIRLab has a vacancy for an assistant professor in artificial intelligence and information retrieval to be the director of the lab. Please visit this page to find out more.