New partnership with Bulgaria for artificial intelligence

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Martin Vetterli was in Sofia for the launch of the INSAIT intitute. © EPFL 2022
Martin Vetterli was in Sofia for the launch of the INSAIT intitute. © EPFL 2022

The Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Technology (INSAIT) has been launched today in Sofia. INSAIT is a new Bulgarian Institute established in partnership with ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne.

INSAIT aims to become a leading international scientific institute for computer science, artificial intelligence (AI) and computational technology, and to build a world-class research powerhouse that aims to attract scientific and technological talent from the region and around the world. New talent can provide fresh impetus for digital transformation and a competitive economy in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe.

The first institute of its kind in Eastern Europe

Throughout its conception, INSAIT’s foundation has benefited from the advice and support of relevant ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne professors who will continue to support the institute with their scientific expertise. In addition to professors from Switzerland’s two top technical universities, INSAIT is also supervised and advised by world-renowned scientists from other leading research institutions such as the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UC Berkeley, Yale, Princeton, and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

"INSAIT is truly the first institute of its kind in Eastern Europe, and for this reason, it has the potential to become a very disruptive initiative," says Martin Vechev, Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich and member of the ETH AI Center. Vechev’s scientific background was ideal to support this initiative from the beginning. INSAIT also fits well into the establishment of ELLIS Units ( European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems ).

"I have been driving this initiative for the last three years, but I have been interested in this idea for nearly 20 years. Now, I am extremely pleased that Eastern Europe will finally have an institute of this calibre,- he says by adding that professors from ETH and EPFL advise on teaching and research so that INSAIT may develop into a world-class centre for science.

Distinguished guests at the inauguration

INSAIT is to be located in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The institute was officially inaugurated today in the presence of prominent guests from politics, business, and science. Among the participants from Switzerland were Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, ETH Zurich President Joël Mesot, and EPFL President Martin Vetterli. Also participating were Rumen Radev and Kiril Petkov, the President and Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Education and Youth, and Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council ERC.

International cooperation and open exchange across cultures and disciplines are essential drivers of scientific progress. ETH Zurich and its researchers foster them in various world regions and in numerous formats - from individual collaboration to institutional cooperation, -Science builds cultural bridges - something the world needs now more than ever,- says ETH President Joël Mesot, -I am delighted that ETH Zurich, through our professors- partnerships with the INSAIT, can contribute to strengthening scientific ties with Bulgaria and Europe.-

For Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), this collaboration underscores Switzerland’s commitment to strengthening the European Research Area as an active and reliable partner ( cf. Press information of the EAER ).

With the financial support of the Bulgarian government and technology companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and DeepMind, INSAIT will be able to build international research and educational programs spanning the foundations and applications of artificial intelligence and computer science. It starts with a capital outlay of nearly USD100 million over the next ten years. The tech company, SiteGround, as well as a number of Bulgarian entrepreneurs, are providing more than USD7 million in support.

The new institute’s focus areas include: machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, information security, programming languages, formal methods, quantum computing, and computer architecture, and other tech related fields.

Contributing as mentors

In these research areas, ETH Zurich and EPFL professors have an internationally recognised, world-class expertise to contribute through the partnership. "The research topics at INSAIT will be spanning all fields of artificial intelligence and computer science,- says Martin Vechev. We anticipate establishing an INSAIT master’s program in which professors from ETH and EPFL can contribute."

As mentors for scientific and technological talent, ETH and researchers also look forward to contributing to INSAIT’s effort to provide attractive career prospects for the next generation of researchers and deep-tech entrepreneurs in a region where most highly skilled tech professionals have so far emigrated.