East Westphalian universities establish AI Academy OWL

Bundestag Budget Committee approves funding of 7.4 million euros.


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The AI Academy will be based on three pillars: Research and training of AI talents, consulting and coaching for the economy and the anchoring of AI skills in society.

The AI Academy is to be based on three pillars: Research and training of AI talents, consulting and coaching for the economy and the anchoring of AI skills in society.
At its meeting on Friday (17th), the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag decided to fund the establishment of an AI Academy OWL. The research facility on artificial intelligence (AI) is to be set up under the leadership of Bielefeld University together with Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences, Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences (TH OWL) and Paderborn University. The AI Academy is to be funded with up to 7.4 million euros over five years.

"The decision in favor of the KI-Akademie OWL is an important milestone," says Professor Dr. Angelika Epple, Rector of Bielefeld University. "On the one hand, the decision recognizes Bielefeld's research successes in AI, especially in cognitive interaction technology, and on the other hand, the close cooperation between the state universities in Ostwestfalen-Lippe in this field of research. I would like to thank Professor Barbara Hammer in particular. Together with her team and colleagues from all four universities, she carried out the necessary preparatory work that led to the budget committee's decision."

The exact funding conditions are to be clarified with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the coming months. The aim is for the planned AI Academy to start in 2024.

Professor Dr. Ingeborg Schramm-Wölk, President of Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences and Chairwoman of Campus OWL e.V., the association of the five state universities in the region: "The federal government's support for the establishment of the AI Academy OWL shows once again how successfully the state universities in the region, which have joined forces in Campus OWL e.V., are cooperating.Each university will contribute the expertise of its researchers to the planned academy so that AI systems in business and society can work sustainably, transparently, safely and resource-efficiently over a long product life cycle in the future."

Professor Dr. Jürgen Krahl, President of the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences: "This is very good news! We are delighted and, above all, we will contribute the expertise of our Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences in terms of research and teaching to the OWL campus in the usual way. The new research facility is a great asset for the region."

Professor Dr. Birgitt Riegraf, President of Paderborn University: "This is a great success that shows that the universities in the OWL region work together excellently. This cooperation leads to synergy effects that further strengthen our position in the German scientific landscape.I would like to thank everyone involved for their great work."

Wiebke Esdar (SPD), Member of the Bundestag for Bielefeld and member of the Budget Committee, said: "We know how immensely important artificial intelligence is for our business location and soon also for everyday life. "I am therefore delighted that we can use these federal funds to make our region even better equipped for the future." The funds come from the budget of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, for which Esdar is the main rapporteur in the Budget Committee.

One goal: developing energy- and data-efficient AI models

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research presented its Artificial Intelligence Action Plan last week. One of its aims is to develop measurable economic successes and tangible benefits for society for "AI made in Germany".

Artificial intelligence is omnipresent in our everyday lives through its use in smart products and social media. "AI development worldwide is dominated by large international technology companies," explains Professor Dr. Barbara Hammer, research group leader at the Center for Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University. The computer scientist is to head the future AI Academy.

"The technology companies mainly rely on black box models - this means that it is unclear how AI based on these models arrives at decisions. What risks are associated with such technologies? The AI Academy should investigate and communicate this," says Barbara Hammer. According to her, another disadvantage of widespread AI models is that they require an extremely large amount of computing time and data. "That's why the OWL AI Academy aims to develop energy- and data-efficient alternatives that are competitive and safe."

The AI Academy will be based on three pillars: Research and training of AI talents, consulting and coaching for the economy and the anchoring of AI skills in society. The principle of connecting researchers and practitioners links the planned AI Academy with the Conflict Academy "ConflictA", which was established at Bielefeld University in the middle of this year and has since been researching conflicts relevant to democracy and making its findings available via knowledge transfer and communication.
The idea of promoting an academy on AI was preceded by a joint cross-party visit by members of the Bundestag from the SPD, CDU, FDP and Greens from the region in the summer. Here, the four universities presented their existing cooperation on AI research.