2020/06/18 CLAIRE 2nd Anniversary Update
A mere 24 months ago, on 18 June 2018, CLAIRE was officially launched. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since then. Here are some of the things we’ve accomplished in the past year, along with updates on several exciting ongoing and new projects:
- The CLAIRE Association
- Funding and Sponsorship
- Support from the European Commission under ICT-48-2020
- Growth in support, new offices and staff
- Important events
- AI for All, AI for Good and new partnership with AIhub
- Taskforces and initiatives
- Nordic AI young researcher symposium series
- Work on the EU Public-Private Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics
- New website, partnership for brand development and communication
- The CLAIRE Association
From the beginning, CLAIRE has been a grass-roots, community-driven effort, aiming to guide and complement the top-down initiatives by national governments and the European Commission. This has been a very good model, but as our organisation has grown and matured, and as we are taking official responsibilities (for instance, working with the European Commissions and with industry), it has become necessary to create a formal association.
As of 31 January 2020, the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research (CLAIRE) exists as an official international non-profit association under Belgian law (AISBL), which is the legal framework also used by EurAI and many other non-profit organisations working with the EU Commission. On 25 May 2020, the Belgian Ministry of Justice has signed the Royal Decree recognising the legal status of the association.
Most of the groups, labs and organisations that form CLAIRE’s large and diverse research network have already confirmed their status as formal members of the association, while a few are in the final stages of legal processes within their institutions required to make that transition. While this transition is somewhat bureaucratic in nature, please rest assured that we are fully committed to preserving the nimble, flexible and inclusive character of CLAIRE, for the benefit of all its members.
- Funding and Sponsorship
Since the very beginning, CLAIRE has been supported, financially and with in-kind contributions, by the various organisations and public bodies that share the CLAIRE vision. To recognise those past and ongoing contributions, and to facilitate future financial support for CLAIRE, we have now launched an official CLAIRE Sponsorship Programme; for details, see https://claire-ai.org/sponsorship. In terms of direct contributions to its operation between June 2018 and December 2020, sponsorship support for CLAIRE comes to a total of 1.58 million Euros, rising from 162,000 EUR received in 2018 to over 800,000 EUR for 2020. All of this is “fresh money”, contributed in cash or in-kind to CLAIRE directly; it does not include funding received or spent by CLAIRE member groups and institutions on AI research or innovation. Sponsors of CLAIRE include Leiden University, German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), Oslo Metropolitan University, The Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium (NORA), Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Université Libre de Bruxelles (VUB/ULB), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC), Sapienza University of Rome, the European Space Agency (ESA), Territory, the City of the Hague, the State of Saarland and the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, to all of whom we are deeply grateful for their support.
- Support from the European Commission under ICT-48-2020
As announced by us in April 2020, CLAIRE has been amazingly successful in the recent, strategically important ICT-48-2020 call by the European Commission. Four of the five consortia selected for funding under ICT-48 are coordinated by members of CLAIRE; these include TAILOR, Humane-AI-Net and AI4Media, which will form large and diverse networks of centres of excellence in AI research, as well as VISION, which will coordinate between these and one additional network, ELISE, selected for funding (ELISE also includes several members of CLAIRE), in order to position Europe for leadership in human-centred, trustworthy AI. This resounding success in a highly competitive process further strengthens CLAIRE’s leading role in shaping the European AI ecosystem.
Bianca Hoersch, Chief Digital Officer of the European Space Agency (with whom CLAIRE is collaborating closely on space-related AI research and applications), shared her excitement on this achievement: “On the occasion of its 2nd anniversary, we would like to congratulate CLAIRE on the extraordinary success in the selection of ITC-48 networks. We look forward to exploring possible connections with these networks via CLAIRE, to advance AI solutions for the space sector and to foster trustworthy systems, products, data and information.”
The ICT-48 networks and coordination mandate are expected to be launched officially in September 2020 and to operate for at least three years.
- Growth in support, new offices and staff
Launched in December 2018, the CLAIRE Research Network had grown to 288 member groups, institutes and organisations by our first anniversary, in June 2019. Currently, this number stands at 375 and continues to increase steadily. These members of the CLAIRE Research Network range from individual university labs to the largest AI research institutes in Europe; jointly, they employ more than 21,000 AI researchers and support staff, covering all areas of AI and a wide range of real-world applications. Their combined budget for AI research and supporting activities exceeds 400 million Euros per year.
Support by individuals for the CLAIRE vision of excellence across all of AI, for all of Europe, with a human-centred focus, has steadily risen from 1680 supporters on the day CLAIRE launched to over 3500 now in June 2020.
Over the past 12 months, four additional European governments have officially stated their support for the CLAIRE vision: Spain (July 2019), Finland (August 2019), Greece (September 2019) and the Netherlands (October 2019). This brings the total number of countries whose governments have issued letters of support for CLAIRE to nine, with others expected to follow in the near future.
Since June 2019, new CLAIRE administrative offices have been established in Brussels, Oslo and Zurich, along with the new CLAIRE Headquarters in The Hague. Although the official openings of the new offices in Brussels, Oslo and Zurich have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eight new staff members from all over Europe have joined the CLAIRE offices in Brussels, Oslo, Rome, Saarbrücken and Zurich, bringing the total number of support staff working for CLAIRE up to 15, spread over 7 offices.
- Important events
Over the past 12 months, CLAIRE has been organising and participating in a large number of events – too many, in fact, to list them all here. Highlights include:
- a presentation of CLAIRE to the Joint Committee on AI and Disruptive Innovation of the French and German Parliaments, given by CLAIRE core team members, Philipp Slusallek and Holger Hoos, on 1 July 2019 in Paris;
- a brief presentation on the CLAIRE vision given to French President, Emanuel Macron, and several of his ministers, given by CLAIRE core team member, Holger Hoos, during a working dinner on 29 October 2019 in Paris;
- a working meeting on the CLAIRE vision between the Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, and her senior leadership team with CLAIRE core team members, Holger Hoos and Morten Irgens, on 15 November 2019 in Brussels;
- a working visit by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the Belgian CLAIRE Office (headed by Hans De Canck) and AI Experience Center at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, on 18 February 2020, on the occasion of the announcement of the Commission’s plans on Artificial Intelligence.
Furthermore, CLAIRE organised two theme development workshops related to earth observation and climate change together with ESA, and members of the CLAIRE core team gave presentations at the Global Forum on AI for Humanity in October 2019 in Paris and at various other scientific meetings. CLAIRE also held a well-attended community meeting at IJCAI 2019 in August 2019 in Macau, as well as a working meeting on learning, reasoning and optimisation at ECML/PKDD 2019 in September 2019 in Würzburg (Germany), and CLAIRE organised and hosted a meeting of the HumanE-AI consortium in October 2019 in The Hague. Please see and follow the relevant channels on Zulip (in particular, https://claire.zulipchat.com/#narrow/stream/events) to receive up-to-date information on upcoming events or reports on past ones.
- AI for All, AI for Good and new partnership with AIhub
In December 2019, at the official opening of the CLAIRE headquarters in The Hague, we announced “AI for Good” and “AI for All” as our core values. This decision was made in recognition of the fact that AI technologies increasingly shape our future and, developed and used in the right way, can play a key role in addressing the pressing issues of our time – challenges such as climate change and the current pandemic that play out on a global scale and have far-reaching implications. This commitment to “AI for Good” and “AI for All” not only aligns perfectly with the CLAIRE vision, but also with the direction taken by the European Commission and other global initiatives. It led directly to substantial funding of the CLAIRE headquarters by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
“AI for Good” refers to the development and use of AI technologies for the benefit of humanity and the ecosystem we live in, e.g., by enabling progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. “AI for All” aims to ensure that AI systems and technologies benefit everyone, including companies of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy; public administration, public institutions and non-governmental organisations; and individual citizens across Europe.
To further develop this dual focus on AI for Good and AI for All, CLAIRE is proud to announce a new partnership with the Association for the Understanding of Artificial Intelligence (aihub.org), a non-profit organisation dedicated to connecting the AI community to the public by providing free, high-quality information on AI research and innovation. CLAIRE joins six leading global scientific organisations in AI (AAAI, NeurIPS, IMLS, AIJ/IJCAI, ACM SIGAI and RoboCup) in officially supporting AIhub. CLAIRE and AIhub will be working together in order to bring high-quality information on human-centred AI research, and particularly on AI for Good and AI for All, to a broad audience.
- Taskforces and initiatives
CLAIRE has grown into a large organisation with many offices and a sizable support team. We are also seriously engaged in an increasingly broad palette of activities, ranging from interaction and joint work with the European Commission to topical work on applications of AI related to space or the COVID-19 pandemic and mechanisms for effectively supporting AI-based innovation in industry. To better structure this work, in February 2020, the CLAIRE extended core team decided to create a number of taskforces, each with a specific focus and mission. Here, we will give a brief overview of several of these newly formed working groups.
On 20 March 2020, CLAIRE launched its Taskforce “COVID-19”, to support activities by public health authorities, medical services and governments in their efforts to tackle the societal and economical challenges generated by the pandemic (see https://claire-ai.org/claire-press-release-13). Since its establishment, the task force has organised a large-scale volunteer effort involving more than 150 AI researchers throughout Europe that are now working in seven topic groups: mobility and monitoring data analysis; bioinformatics; medical image analysis; social dynamics and networks monitoring; robotics; and scheduling & resource management. These groups collected and curated resources to leverage AI techniques in the context of COVID-19 and support the development of new projects in several application areas; more information can be found at https://covid19.claire-ai.org.
Taskforce “Communications & Outreach”, led by CLAIRE core team member, Holger Hoos, has ramped up CLAIRE’s communications and outreach activities, in collaboration with other organisations (see also items 6 and 10 of this update), and communications expertise within the team. The strategic work of this task force is crucial for a broad public perception of CLAIRE’s core values, activities and people, in both mainstream and social media. This taskforce is aiming to align the brand and communication strategy from within to reflect a consistent brand representation throughout all aspects of communication: brand alignment across all communications materials; visual storytelling of CLAIRE’s core values, activities and people; community and network shaping through consistent communication efforts addressing all our stakeholders; and event management for special events (online/live) for members, supporters and the general public.
Over the past few months, Taskforce “White Paper Response”, led by extended core team member Fredrik Heintz from Linköping University (SE) and Jeroen van den Hoven from Delft University of Technology (NL), has coordinated work on CLAIRE’s official response to the European Commission’s white paper on AI, much of which aligns well with the CLAIRE vision for European excellence in human-centred AI (see https://claire-ai.org/claire-press-release-14). Based on input from CLAIRE’s International Advisory Board and the CLAIRE membership at large, the task force finalised and released CLAIRE’s official response, which prominently includes ten key recommendations to the European Commission (see https://claire-ai.org/ec-wp-response).
Taskforce “Industry”, established in April 2020 and led by CLAIRE core team member, Philipp Slusallek, and extended core team member, Fredrik Heintz, is working on activities involving CLAIRE’s for-profit members (companies, legal entities, and groups or units within these companies that develop or use Artificial Intelligence methods or technologies). The goal is to complement, in the very near future, the CLAIRE Research Network with a similar community of commercial companies, start-ups and entrepreneurs – the CLAIRE Innovation Network. This is important, because to realise CLAIRE’s ambitious vision for European excellence in AI, strong links are required between AI research and innovation, between academia and industry across Europe, and close interaction between CLAIRE’s Research and Innovation Networks will facilitate these links and the exciting projects enabled by them.
- Nordic AI young researcher symposium series
This new series of events has just received 5-year funding from the Research Council of Norway. Organised by CLAIRE and NORA, the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium, each annual symposium will bring together around 200 PhD students, postdocs and early-stage researchers in basic and applied AI, to learn about new ideas, methods and theories within AI, as well as build a professional network at the national and international level. We see bringing together the AI research environments of Northern Europe as an important step for the European AI community and for CLAIRE. We aim at using the symposium series as a blueprint for organising similar events at the European level. After the original launch, planned for 2020, had to be moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first edition of the symposium is now planned for 13 and 14 October 2021.
- Work on the EU Public-Private Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics
In May 2019, the European Commission invited CLAIRE and four other organisations to contribute to develop the strategy, organisation and platform for a public-private partnership in AI, Data and Robotics. Since then, a CLAIRE taskforce, led by core team member, Morten Irgens, has been working with the European Commission and the other partners organisations – the Big Data Value Association (BDVA), euRobotics, the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) and the European Association for Artificial Intelligence (EurAI) – towards establishing this PPP.
The PPP aims to strengthen the European innovation ecosystem by stimulating the commercial sector and by increasing its collaboration with universities and other sectors in AI and closely related areas. This is important, because of the key role AI plays in the global technology-driven knowledge economy. In addition, AI accelerates science and innovation, and thus creates a positive feedback loop for the knowledge economy. Europe therefore needs to increase its research and innovation in AI. The proposed PPP plays an important role in these efforts. CLAIRE’s involvement aims to ensure strong and close alignment of the PPP with the CLAIRE vision and strong links to the European AI research ecosystem and the CLAIRE community.
- New website, partnership for brand development and communications
Last, but certainly not least, CLAIRE is stepping up its communications and brand development activities this year. While content-driven work is at the heart of CLAIRE’s goals and activities, broad recognition as well as effective communication with its community and all stakeholders play a crucial role in realising the CLAIRE vision for European excellence in AI.
Within only two years since its public launch, CLAIRE has become a brand that is widely recognised across Europe and beyond. In order to increase its international visibility and public outreach, CLAIRE has recently initiated a collaboration with TERRITORY (https://territory.de/en), a leading international branding agency providing its clients with services ranging from data analysis, strategy and creation development to in-house production, distribution and marketing. TERRITORY, whose work is focussed on brand communication that is honest, active and effective, has begun to assist CLAIRE in developing a brushed-up brand experience of CLAIRE’s public image as Europe’s leading AI alliance.
In this spirit, we are proud to launch our brand-new CLAIRE website as of today. TERRITORY has done a tremendous job over the last few weeks in restructuring the existing content and providing a modern and intuitive “look and feel”. We are very pleased with the results and grateful for the generous and professional support, which was donated as an in-kind contribution to CLAIRE.
CLAIRE is pleased to begin this new chapter with a targeted communication strategy from within, in order to reach as many Europeans as possible and to win them over to a common vision of artificial intelligence for Europe.
2020/03/20 CLAIRE receives broad mandate and funding for shaping “AI made in Europe”
The European Commission has taken a major step towards strengthening AI research in Europe by allocating 50 million Euros of seed funding, intended to prepare the ground for much larger investments in the near future. This is critically necessary to keep Europe competitive with countries such as the USA, China and Canada, which are investing substantially higher amounts into AI research and innovation.
Four of the five proposals selected for funding under ICT-48-2020 were coordinated by members of CLAIRE. These proposals include TAILOR, Humane-AI-Net and AI4Media, which will form large and diverse networks of centres of excellence in AI research, as well as VISION, which will coordinate between these and one additional network selected for funding, in order to position Europe for leadership in human-centred, trustworthy AI. This fantastic success in a highly competitive process further strengthens CLAIRE’s leading role in shaping the European AI ecosystem. Read the press release from 13 March to find out more.
On 19 February, the European Commission released a whitepaper that outlined a plan adopting all key parts of the vision for excellence in AI unveiled by CLAIRE in June 2018 (see press release from 20 February). Now, the resounding success in ICT-48-2020 confirms CLAIRE’s leading role in defining and implementing Europe’s vision for excellence in AI research and innovation.
CLAIRE will work closely, through the VISION coordination mandate as well as through our members who lead and participate in the new networks of centres of excellence, with all consortia to be funded under ICT-48-2020, towards ensuring the success of “AI made in Europe”. We will also do all we can to include those members of our research network, and of the European AI community at large, who will not directly benefit from the seed funding provided under ICT-48-2020, in the activities of the new networks, and to make sure that receive much needed support in future rounds of funding.
2020/03/09 Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences endorsed CLAIRE
The Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) has now officially endorsed the CLAIRE initiative and expressed its interest to closely collaborate on the promotion of excellence in artificial intelligence research. SATW is the most important network of experts for engineering sciences in Switzerland. SATW acts on behalf of the Swiss federal government, to identify industrially relevant technological developments and informs politics and society about their importance and consequences. Following the recent creation of the CLAIRE office Switzerland earlier this year, this is an important step to integrate the AI community all across Europe around the human-centric vision championed by CLAIRE.
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2019/12/18 CLAIRE 18 months in
Precisely 18 months ago, CLAIRE was officially launched. It feels much longer than that, since so much has happened since, especially over the last 12 months. In the following, we give you an update of some key achievements and developments, as well as a brief outlook to 2020.
In particular, we cover the following:
- The CLAIRE research network
- ICT-48 Proposals
- International Advisory Board
- Endorsements from governments and national contact points
- Collaboration with the European Space Agency
- CLAIRE offices and headquarters
- Zulip community platform
- Work with the European Commission and Parliament
- Next steps
- Appendix: CLAIRE’s efforts on collaborating with ELLIS on ICT-48 proposals
But before we do so, we would like to thank you all for you ongoing support for our shared vision – a vision that has gained much traction over the past year, and one that’s certainly worth every hour that countless volunteers from the CLAIRE community have put into. CLAIRE is all of us – that is, all of you – and what we can do together. And looking back, that seems to be a lot. Enough for a rather extensive update, but we’ve tried to organise it in a way that makes it easy to find the topics you might be most interested in. Of course, we think it’s all pretty exciting … 😉
Before we get started, a brief reminder that we post regular updates on Twitter (@vision_claire, please follow us there if you have not done so already) and – preferably – Zulip (contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t have access yet, and see instructions below for setting up auto-forwarding of Zulip messages to your e-mail account.)
The CLAIRE research network. Firstly, as you may know, CLAIRE is now the world’s largest AI research network. At 341 member groups and institutions (and counting), ranging from small groups to large institutes, the network jointly covers over twenty thousand AI researchers and staff, with a total annual budget of well over 300 million Euros per year for AI research in Europe, or an estimated 1.5 billion Euros over the next five years. This surpasses, by far, what we had expected when we started building the research network a mere 12 months ago, and is testament to the enormous strength Europe has in terms of research across all areas of AI.
Of course, 300 million per year is less than a third of what we estimate is needed to keep Europe at the forefront of AI research – CERN, for example, has an annual budget of about 1 billion Euros, and that’s “just” particle physics (well, don’t tell them that, since they will remind you that part of this paid for the invention of the WWW, and similar side benefits), and it only covers the additional budget they receive for the large joint projects they are doing together at CERN in addition to the individual budgets of their distributed network of researchers. So, there’s a sizeable gap between what we collectively have and what we’d like to see in terms of public funding of fundamental AI research – not even to speak of AI innovation, which comes on top of that.
ICT-48 Proposals. To address this funding gap mentioned above, at least to some extent, over the past 12 months, we’ve taken some important initial steps. Notably, in the context of ICT-48-2020, a call widely believed to be instrumental for preparing the ground for more significant funding in the near future, CLAIRE has been very active. Specifically, CLAIRE members and supporters were deeply involved in at least 6 of 14 submitted ICT-48-2020 RIA proposals, and had some involvement in several others. CLAIRE members and supporters were also involved in both CSA proposals, with one of those (titled VISION) developed under the leadership of CLAIRE. Although the funding under ICT-48 is very limited, we are confident that its level of participation in this call positions CLAIRE well for future opportunities.
There have been questions from quite a few CLAIRE members and supporters regarding coordination with ELLIS in the context of ICT-48. In a nutshell, we seriously tried to work together with ELLIS on a joint CSA proposal and on a RIA proposal on foundations of trustworthy AI, but for reasons we don’t fully understand, this did not work out. We note, however, that lately, ELLIS appears to have embraced a focus on human-centred, trustworthy AI. We see this as a major step forward, not just for ELLIS, but also in terms of prospects of future collaboration on the topic (as recently as September, CLAIRE’s long-standing commitment to a strong focus on human-centred AI appeared to be perceived by ELLIS as an obstacle to collaboration on an ICT-48 RIA proposal).
International Advisory Board. On the occasion of the opening our headquarters last week, we were thrilled to announce our newly formed international advisory board, whose members are (in alphabetical order):
- Noriko Arai, Director of the Research Center for Community Knowledge at the National Institute of Informatics in Japan;
- Frédérick Bordry, Director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN in Switzerland;
- Alan Mackworth from the University of British Columbia in Canada, former president of AAAI;
- Francesca Rossi, AI Ethics Global Leader and Distinguished Research Staff Member at IBM Research in the USA;
- Robert-Jan Smits, President of the Executive Board of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, former director-general of research and innovation at the European Commission and one of the main architects of Horizons 2020;
- Manuela Veloso, Head of AI Research at J.P. Morgan and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA, former president of AAAI;
- Wolfgang Wahlster from Saarland University in Germany and former CEO and Scientific Director of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI); and
- Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia and Guest Professor at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany.
Jointly, the 8-person board brings a broad range of experience from academia, industry and major European institutions, including the European Commission and CERN to CLAIRE. We expect that advice and guidance from this high-calibre group of experts will play a crucial role in helping us with the next steps towards achieving our bold and ambitious vision for European excellence in AI.
Endorsements from governments and national contact points. In November 2018, we received a strong letter of support from the Italian government. Over the course of 2019, the governments of eight further EU countries officially endorsed our vision: Belgium and Czechia (in February), Slovakia (in April), Luxembourg (in May), Spain (in July), Finland (in August), Greece (in September) and The Netherlands (in October). We know of two further letters that are tantalisingly close to completion, and we expect to receive these within the next few weeks. Because part of our vision will require strong financial backing from national governments, these letters are very important stepping stones, and it is thus very encouraging to see increasing momentum in this regard.
To further strengthen the operation of CLAIRE on the national level, we are now putting into place national contact points in all countries in which there is major support for CLAIRE. These national contact points form a natural interface between CLAIRE, the AI ecosystems in the individual countries, the national governments and the national AI associations (which also endorse the national contact points and, of course, are one of our main connections to EurAI).
Collaboration with the European Space Agency. Over the last 12 months, we have built strong links with the European Space Agency (ESA) – one of Europe’s major success stories and an organisation with a keen interest in AI research and innovation. Following a very successful theme development workshop on AI and space in early March, we’ve enjoyed enthusiastic support from the highest level of ESA, as is evident from a message sent to us in June by Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Director General of ESA European Space Agency, in which he wrote: “CLAIRE has planted the flag for Europe’s ambitions on AI, and we congratulate you. […] I am sure our collaboration with CLAIRE will help us realise Europe’s ambitions for space technologies and on Earth, and for the advancement of AI in all our Member States.” In the autumn, there have been two further theme development workshops related to climate science, which form the first steps of an emerging CLAIRE focus on AI and climate. CLAIRE and ESA have officially formed a Special Interest Group on AI and Space, whose steering committee met in early December to map out activities over the next 12 months – stay tuned, there will be many opportunities to get involved (we will announce these on our Zulip community platform – see also below)!
CLAIRE offices and headquarters. As per previous updates, CLAIRE has opened administrative offices in Saarbrücken (DE), Prague (CZ) and Rome (IT), as well as headquarters in The Hague (NL). These offices increase CLAIRE’s capacity to organise events (such as the CLAIRE symposium in February), to maintain and extend our website and to operate our Zulip community platform. The offices also play an important role in engaging with the AI communities in the respective countries. We are very grateful to the institutions that fund these offices. The offices have already proven to be very valuable to us, and as our organisation takes further shape, we expect to constantly adapt the way they operate to support CLAIRE’s mission. We expect several additional offices to be opened in the near future, to strengthen CLAIRE’s geographical presence across Europe and to further define the focus for the work done by each of the offices (see “Next steps” below), for the benefit of the CLAIRE community (i.e., all of you).
Zulip community platform. Since June, we’ve been operating our community platform, based on Zulip, an open-source alternative to Slack. We chose Zulip primarily because we wanted a flexible, open-source and cost-effective solution that can be hosted in Europe. Initial uptake has been good, but we would very much like to see this used a lot more, by you, in a bottom-up fashion, for announcements and discussions of all sorts. We have set up streams for a variety of topics and purposes, such as news, job postings, grant opportunities and topics of relevance to CLAIRE supporters and members in specific countries. We’ll be happy to set up additional streams upon request (just post to #zulip help) We understand that some of you are reluctant to deal with yet another communications tool or platform, although we still encourage you to try out Zulip, which is light-weight and easy to use. Still, if you prefer e-mail, all you have to do after you have your account (for this, please contact email@example.com) is to log in once and set up e-mail notifications (Settings menu under the cogwheel icon on the top right / Notifications / Email / check all four boxes).
Work with the European Commission and Parliament. This, of course, has been a major focus of our activities. 10 supporters of CLAIRE are members of the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI (HLEG-AI) and have been deeply involved in preparing two key documents: the ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI (published in April) and the policy and investment recommendations (published in June). For the former, there was a formal process for community input, which many of you have actively participated in. For the latter, unfortunately, no such process was offered by the Commission, so our input was given through individual HLEG-AI members.
On 15 November, EC EVP Margrete Vestager was given a briefing on CLAIRE by Holger and Morten, on her request, and this was followed up with additional information. This was our first chance to pitch the CLAIRE vision at the highest level of the Commission, and according to Commission participants at the table, our presentation was very well received. Going forward, Robert-Jan Smits, member of our newly formed international advisory board and former director general of the Commission, will provide us with expert advice on working even more closely with the Commission.
The Commission has worked on establishing a Commission-internal proposal for a public-private partnership (PPP) in AI. A PPP is a particular instrument the commission uses for mobilising innovation in industry and for securing substantial co-financing from industry. CLAIRE decided to engage with this process for three reasons: The first is that we believe that AI is an important part of an AI PPP (the commission had engaged with two existing PPPs that do not represent the core AI community to develop the proposal), the second that we believe a strong participation from research is important for successful innovation, and the third that the target size of the programme is substantial. CLAIRE developed and published a document with ten recommendations for an AI PPP (please see our website), and was asked in the twelfth hour to assist with internal preparations of a PPP-related document through our core team member, Morten Irgens. CLAIRE expects to be engaged if the Commission decides to move this forward.
In early December, we started reaching out to members of the European Parliament, to increase awareness of and support for CLAIRE. This complements work done by some of our supporters at the national level aimed at connecting CLAIRE to the national AI strategies.
Next steps. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few months it is the degree to which we cannot predict what’s going to happen next with CLAIRE. Of course, this does not mean that we shouldn’t make plans. We expect additional offices to be opened in Oslo (NO), Zürich (CH), Brussels (BE), Paris (FR) and Cork (IE), with dedicated staff for EU liaison, for work with mainstream and social media, for outreach and citizen engagement, for networking and event support, and for technical support (Zulip, website, …).
A major focus will be on building an industry network to complement our large and strong non-profit research network. Considering that 871 of our 3300 individual supporters (i.e., 26%) work in companies, ranging from small startups to multinational corporations, we feel there is substantial interest in the CLAIRE vision and organisations from industry. As of last week, we have an informal advisory group (IAG) on industry (see https://claire-ai.org/iags/#IND) that will take the lead, supported by staff in the Saarbrücken office and our HQ in building the industry network, which will complement our research network and create opportunities for cooperation, projects and strategic work on key applications of AI (e.g., in through theme development workshops).
To allow CLAIRE to operate as a legal entity (which is important in the contact of industry contributions, donations, operating offices, etc.), we are currently setting up a non-profit international organisation under Belgian law (the same legal form used by EurAI and many EU-related entities). In order to get something into place quickly, the extended core team decided on a light-weight temporary construct that will ultimately be modified into a longer-term structure, based on input from the CLAIRE community (more on this to follow soon). In the meanwhile, for technical reasons, we will soon request the current members of our research network to officially join the new association.
We are actively working on endorsements from additional national governments, with some very close to being officially issued. Help with this, from anyone with good political connections, is always very welcome. These endorsements are very effective in raising our profile nationally, at the EU level and beyond; they also give us some influence on national AI strategies.
We are planning several community meetings, including a large one at ECAI next summer, as well as additional theme development workshops (details will be communicated on Zulip). In addition, we encourage meetings at the national level, coordinated with the national AI associations as far as possible, and we will be happy to give administrative support for these.
Finally, we will focus on intensifying our already very strong connections with other key players – notably, EurAI, AI4EU, the HumanE AI consortium, ELLIS, the BDVA and euRobotics – as well as with the networks that will be established by the successful ICT-48 RIA consortia. Our goal in all of this is to help overcome fragmentation, to coordinate between different groups in order to achieve maximum benefit for the European AI community as well as maximum impact for “AI made in Europe”.
Appendix: CLAIRE’s efforts on collaborating with ELLIS on ICT-48 proposals
Over the last few weeks, we have received quite a few questions regarding CLAIRE’s coordination with ELLIS in ICT-48-2020 proposals. Here is a rather detailed account of this, based on notes and e-mail messages on the process reviewed by CLAIRE extended core team members. We also shared a slightly condensed version of this account with the ELLIS board, in the interest of clearing up some confusion that seems to have arisen on this topic.
Following our announcement of CLAIRE’s ICT-48 strategy, which included an invitation to ELLIS to cooperate on a RIA proposal on foundations of AI and on a CSA proposal, to which ELLIS responded positively, we were notified in early July by the ELLIS board that ELLIS preferred primarily focussing on their own proposal, and to explore, in parallel, the possibility of joining the two proposals into one. We were also informed that no one on the ELLIS side could be found to join us in writing a CSA proposal.
In mid-August, we reached out again to ELLIS, offering cooperation on a joint RIA proposal, a CSA proposal and two other topics. ELLIS then expressed interest in discussing a possible merger of the two RIA proposals on foundations. These discussions were held by Arnold Smeulders and Sami Kaski (as leaders of the ELLIS proposal), Fredrik Heintz (as coordinator of CLAIRE’s TAILOR proposal) and Holger Hoos (as the core team member most deeply involved in CLAIRE’s overall ICT-48 efforts). Both ELLIS representatives declined requests for informal discussions before a more formal meeting, which we felt would have helped to quickly find common ground.
The ELLIS team lead the negotiations, proposing a combination of the two RIA efforts that would lead to fully symmetrical representation of CLAIRE and ELLIS. The CLAIRE team was prepared to accept this, under the condition that a highly visible focus on human-centred, trustworthy AI could be preserved and that the coordinator role would either be jointly taken by CLAIRE and ELLIS, or that it would go to Fredrik Heintz on the CLAIRE side, based on our perception that the CLAIRE proposal was broader and further developed at that point. After discussions on both conditions, which were complicated by the fact that EU rules require a single coordinating institution, and several tweaks, it appeared that the ELLIS side did not want to focus on human-centred, trustworthy AI, and that they were unwilling to consider the proposal to make Linköping University, which has both CLAIRE and ELLIS supporters, the coordinator of a joint proposal. From the CLAIRE perspective, there was still room for further discussions on both topics, but the ELLIS team decided to abandon this line of negotiation and put a new proposal on the table. This so-called “room in your house” proposal was to give ELLIS full control over one work package, with sizeable budget, in the CLAIRE-led TAILOR proposal.
Despite concerns within CLAIRE regarding the outside perception of this solution and the degree to which it would enable meaningful scientific cooperation between CLAIRE and ELLIS (something we wanted to achieve in a joint network), on 14 September, CLAIRE accepted this proposal in full. Without any further discussion, on 19 September, we received a message from the ELLIS negotiation team telling us that, after careful consideration of all information, they were no longer willing to go ahead with their own “room in your house” proposal. Much later, ELLIS explained that the reason was that the “room in the house” proposal was dependent on ELLIS securing rooms in more houses than one, which they had not been able to do. At the time, there was also a clear indication that ELLIS was not interested in further discussions (e.g., regarding the earlier line of negotiation).
Following this, the CLAIRE and ELLIS teams submitted two separate, uncoordinated proposals on foundations of AI. As always intended, CLAIRE also submitted a CSA proposal (VISION) and, in this context, reached out to all ICT-48 RIA consortia we had knowledge of for coordination with the VISION proposal. Letters of support were received from 9 of the 14 RIA consortia that ultimately submitted proposals, including the ELLIS-led ELISE consortium. The CSA proposal also included letters of support from EurAI, the Big Data Value Association, euRobotics, the Open Machine Learning Foundation, and the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research.
CLAIRE’s TAILOR RIA and VISION CSA proposals both contain mechanisms for involving researchers and groups beyond those involved in the consortia that end up being funded. This was done to ensure that the entire European AI community is involved to the largest possible degree in the networks of centres of excellence to be established under ICT-48, and it includes, of course, all members and supporters of CLAIRE and ELLIS.
2019/12/09 CLAIRE Hague Headquarters opening
On 9 December, our administrative headquarters in The Hague (NL) have been officially opened. The Hague, which has a global reputation as “City of Peace and Justice” is an excellent fit for CLAIRE. The opening was attended by more then 100 guests; it featured speeches by representatives of CLAIRE, EurAI, the municipality of The Hague, the Parliament of the Netherlands, the Dutch AI Coalition, Leiden University, Delft University, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), as well as several demos of advanced AI systems.
Holger Hoos (Leiden University, NL): On the occasion, CLAIRE reaffirmed its commitment to AI for social good (in particular, to AI research an innovation towards the UN sustainable development goals) and AI for all.
Holger Hoos (Leiden University, NL): We also announced the creation of IAG Industry, as a first step towards creating the CLAIRE industry network, and revealed our international advisory board, which brings world-class experience in AI from academia and industry, as well as experience in building and running large-scale organisations, such as CERN, and creating large-scale funding schemes, such as H2020 and ERC grants, to CLAIRE.
Holger Hoos (Leiden University, NL): In the coming months, we will open additional administrative offices in Brussels (BE), Zürich (CH), Cork (IE) and Paris (FR), in addition to our existing offices in Prague (CZ), Saarbrücken (DE), Rome (IT), Oslo (NO), and our new HQ in The Hague (NL).
2019/06/18 CLAIRE 12 months in
Precisely 12 months ago, CLAIRE was launched officially, with an ambitious vision supported by 600 experts and stakeholders, and with major media coverage in the Netherlands and Germany. Shortly thereafter, CLAIRE had attracted more than 1000 individual supporters, along with media coverage in many European countries.
Today, CLAIRE has over 3000 individual supporters, as well as one of the world’s largest research networks in AI, with 284 member groups and institutions, covering jointly over 16000 employees in 33 countries. CLAIRE has also received official letters of support from the governments of five European countries, from practically all European AI associations, from EurAI, from ESA and from the AAAI.
With administrative offices in The Hague, Saarbrücken, Prague and Rome, and additional offices to open in the near future in Oslo, Paris and Zürich, CLAIRE operates across all of Europe. Within CLAIRE, 9 Informal Advisory Groups IAGS with 48 members from 18 countries cover all areas of AI, along with ethical, legal and social implications.
CLAIRE is providing input to the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI, and is liaising, on an ongoing basis, with other important organisations, including ELLIS, the HumanE AI consortium, the Big Data Value Association, euRobotics and AI4EU, as well as ESA. As recently communicated, CLAIRE also is actively coordinating community efforts in the context of the forthcoming EU ICT-48-2020 call “Towards a vibrant European network of AI excellence centres”.
Today, we are excited to announce four major developments that we expect to help us very substantially towards realising the bold vision of CLAIRE for European excellence in AI.
1) We are about to connect our research network, our supporters and other stakeholders in the European AI community by making available a communications platform based on Zulip. Initially, this will be hosted by Zulip, with the intention for CLAIRE to take over the hosting, on a server based in Europe, before the end of 2019. We are currently in the process of advanced internal testing and expect to gradually roll out the service to the CLAIRE research network, to all CLAIRE supporters and finally, to other stakeholders in the European AI ecosystem – this is part of CLAIRE’s efforts to help AI researchers and stakeholders in Europe communicate and collaborate effectively.
2) We are in the process of building an industry network, covering all sectors and companies ranging from large global players to startups, to complement our extensive research network. This is in line with CLAIRE’s commitment to foster close links between foundational, non-profit research in AI and impactful industrial applications. We expect to announce the initial industry network this summer, linking it to our research network via the Zulip-based communications platform and a series of theme development workshops.
3) ESA and CLAIRE are delighted to announce the formation of the World’s first AI Special Interest Group on Space. This Special Interest Group will help accelerate collaboration between these disciplines to generate new AI, space science, operations and engineering solutions, and to accelerate the adoption of AI in Europe’s space sector in general and the Earth observation sector in particular. See the press release here.
4) CLAIRE is now at the point where the informal organisation that has served us well so far (an overview of which can be found here) needs to transition into a non-profit legal entity. This will be done using an inclusive and transparent process that will be outlined in a separate message and provide ample opportunity for anyone who’d like to be involved to give input. The goal is to create an organisation that is well-positioned to operate on a stable, ongoing basis and to receive major funding to achieve its ambitious goals for excellence in AI within Europe and beyond.
It is amazing how far we have come within 12 months, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters who contributed to the success of CLAIRE so far. We are convinced that the next 12 months will be even more amazing!
2019/02/28 Second CLAIRE Symposium in Rome, Offices across Europe
On 27 February, the second CLAIRE symposium was held in Rome (Italy), generously supported by the National Resource Council of Italy (CNR) , the Italian AI Society (AIxIA), the European Space Agency (ESA), Leiden University, DFKI, OsloMet, Staatskanzlei Saarland, IOS Press, Certicon, Factorio Solutions, and Airbus. Attended by carefully selected 100 AI experts and stakeholders, the symposium was opened (and closed) with a series of statements by Prof. Lorenzo Fioramonti (Vice-minister, Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research), Dr. Andrea Cioffi (State Secretary, Italian Ministry of Economic Development), Dr. Piero Poccianti (President, Artificial Intelligence Italian Association), Dr. Iarla Kilbane-Dawe (Head of Φ-lab, European Space Agency), Prof. Rita Cucchiara (Director, National CINI Laboratory on Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems), Prof. Giuseppe Valditara (Department of Higher Education and Research, Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research), Dr. Roberto Viola (Director-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission) and Prof. Holger Hoos (co-initiator of CLAIRE), and a major update on the progress achieved by CLAIRE since the first symposium in Brussels, in September 2018.
Only nine months after CLAIRE was launched as a grassroots initiative, it has become a large, pan-European organisation, comprising over 250 AI research groups and institutes that jointly represent over 7500 AI experts and support staff. It is now supported by over 2700 individual AI experts and stakeholders across all of Europe, as well as by a large number of Europe’s leading organisations in AI research, including DFKI (Germany), the largest AI research institute in the world, as well as three of Europe’s largest research organizations with a major focus on AI; Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Italy), Inria (France) and TNO (Netherlands).
Recently, CLAIRE has received official letters of support from the governments of Italy, Belgium and the Czech Republic, in addition to being supported by all internationally active national AI associations in Europe, the European AI Association (EurAI), and, as of February 2019, the world’s premier organisation of AI researchers, the Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). CLAIRE’s representation on the European Commission’s high-level expert group on AI has increased to 10 members.
At the symposium, CLAIRE announced the opening of five administrative offices across Europe, to strengthen its organisation and to more effectively engage national governments as well as industry. The CLAIRE headquarters will be located in The Hague (Netherlands), and additional offices are opening in Oslo (Norway), Prague (Czech Republic), Rome (Italy) and Saarbrücken (Germany).
Encouraged by the European Commission, at the symposium in Rome, CLAIRE started a community-led process for determining criteria and possible locations for a European AI Hub, aiming to provide guidance to the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Furthermore, working groups made significant progress on a range of topics, including industry engagement and effective coordination with other initiatives, notably HumanE AI, which is strongly aligned with CLAIRE.
(See also 13 March Press Release “Major steps towards realising a bold vision for European Excellence in AI” and status update slides at claire-ai.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CLAIRE-Symposium-slides.pdf)
2019/02/19 Open letter on cooperation with the UK
CLAIRE has released an open letter addressed to the political leadership of the European Union, its member states and affiliated countries, calling for a commitment to strong collaboration across all European nations, including the UK, on research and innovation in artificial intelligence, regardless of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
The letter, available online at claire-ai.org/eu-uk-letter, has been signed by more than 450 artificial intelligence experts and stakeholders from 24 European countries and beyond, including over 330 leading scientists.
(See also 19 February Press Release “450 Scientists from 33 Nations Urge EU and National Governments to Strongly Cooperate on Artificial Intelligence, Regardless of Brexit“)
2019/02/08 Support by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI)
CLAIRE is now officially supported by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), following a unanimous decision by AAAI’s Executive Council. AAAI is the world’s premier scientific society in the area of AI; it organises the “AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence”, which is considered to be one of the top conferences in the field, provides support to 14 journals and sponsors many conferences and symposia each year. In its early history, AAAI was presided over by notable figures in computer science, including Allen Newell, Edward Feigenbaum, Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy. CLAIRE is the only AI initiative to have received support by AAAI.
2019/02/01 Feedback on draft ethics guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence
In response to the official request for feedback on the draft ethics guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence prepared by the HLEG AI, over the last three weeks, CLAIRE has been running a carefully designed, open process aimed at providing the European Commission – and notably, the high-level expert group – with meaningful feedback.
CLAIRE’s IAG ELS, a group of 9 leading experts on ethical, legal and social issue has carefully analysed the draft guidelines and produced an official response of CLAIRE, which has been submitted via the AI Alliance platform as official input to the European Commission’s high-level expert group on artificial intelligence (HLEG AI). This document can be found at claire-ai.org/ethics-guidelines-response.
At the same time, the CLAIRE community at large has participated in a lively discussion, resulting in a large number of individual submissions of feedback via the AI Alliance.
With this response to the European Commission’s request for discussion and feedback, the AI community, as organised in CLAIRE, has demonstrated the degree to which it is motivated and fully capable to provide meaningful input to the commission’s processes regarding AI in a way that engages thousands of AI experts and stakeholders. Our hope is that our feedback with help the HLEG and the Commission to further improve the draft ethics guidelines, for the benefit of the European AI community and all its stakeholders, including the citizens of Europe, whose lives will be touched by the outcome of this process.
2018/12/18 Establishing the CLAIRE Network
Precisely six months after launching the CLAIRE initiative for European excellence in human-centred artificial intelligence, we have now begun establishing the actual Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe (CLAIRE). Over the last 7 days, 117 academic research groups and institutions from 19 European countries have joined the CLAIRE Network, covering all areas of AI and comprising a total of over 3000 people (see claire-ai.org/network). The members of the CLAIRE Network are committed to working together with other members, towards the realisation of our primary goal: European excellence across all of AI, for all of Europe, with a human-centred focus. We expect many more groups to join in the near future and will update our official list at claire-ai.org/network regularly. Other components of the CLAIRE vision, notably the Centres of Excellence and the CLAIRE Hub, will be further developed and refined over the next few months – stay tuned!
Furthermore, an initial number of Informal Advisory Groups (IAGs) have been formed, to create a conduit between CLAIRE and the topically organised communities within the broad field of AI, and to allow for better connections between the different research areas. The IAGs (claire-ai.org/IAGs) have been formed with key supporters that have proactively and consistently worked with us to make CLAIRE a success, in a way that captures geographic diversity within Europe, and with a focus on well-connected and highly respected researchers.
2018/12/13 Videos from the CLAIRE Symposium
If you haven’t yet seen our new videos (released over the last 10 days), check them out on our YouTube channel at https://goo.gl/JFzdc6, or on our website at claire-ai.org/videos. In those short clips, prominent European AI researchers and participants of the CLAIRE Symposium in Brussels share their views on the significance of AI, the need for a broad and ambitious European vision for excellence in AI and their enthusiasm for CLAIRE.
2018/09/21 Great Momentum and Energy at the CLAIRE Symposium
The day-long symposium was held at Norway House in Brussels, on 7 September. It brought together 100 carefully selected participants from academia, industry and public administration, including 35 world-leading AI researchers. The event was opened by Oda Helen Sletnes, the Norwegian Ambassador to the European Union; Juha Heikkilä, who is leading the European Commission’s work on artificial intelligence; and François Sillion, France’s new national coordinator on AI. The goal of the symposium was to elaborate a common European strategy for excellence in artificial intelligence, and to provide guidance to European and national decision makers on the major investments in AI needed to ensure a leadership role for Europe in AI research and innovation. Read more about the CLAIRE symposium at claire-ai.org/symposium and in our 10 September Press Release: “CLAIRE: We Need to Take Bold Steps to Keep Europe Competitive in Artificial Intelligence“.
The symposium was organised by the initiators of CLAIRE: Holger Hoos from Leiden University (The Netherlands), Morten Irgens from Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway), and Philipp Slusallek from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI, Germany). Generous support for the event was provided by Arvato CRM Solutions, the Norwegian Research Council, the Norwegian Mission to the EU, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI, Germany), Leiden University (The Netherlands) and Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway).
2018/08/17 CLAIRE Symposium, 7 September 2018
Hosted by the Norwegian Mission to the EU, the CLAIRE initiative is organising a symposium on 7 September 2018 in Brussels, bringing together top AI researchers, experts and policy makers to discuss and further develop the main components of a Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe (CLAIRE). More information can be found at claire-ai.org/symposium.
2018/06/27 Cooperation with ELLIS, Participation in EU High-Level Expert Group
Ongoing conversations with supporters of ELLIS have resulted in an agreement to jointly push for common infrastructure, including compute resources “at Google scale”. Such infrastructure is critical for cutting-edge research in many areas of AI, including machine learning, automated reasoning, multi-agent systems and robotics. There is now substantial overlap in the group of supporters of the ELLIS and CLAIRE initiatives, which share key goals, including the support of young researchers and those on their way to becoming the next generation of excellent AI researchers. We see much value in the ELLIS proposal for supporting excellence in machine learning and fields directly impacted by machine learning in Europe, and we are pleased to be working with supporters of the ELLIS initiative towards realising our common goals.
Today, the EU high-level expert group on artificial intelligence (HLG-AI) had its first meeting in Brussels. Six key supporters of CLAIRE are members of the HLG-AI. While HLG-AI has a broad agenda, part of its mission can be achieved by our proposal for strengthening and integrating AI research and innovation in Europe, and we look forward to working with the HLG-AI towards helping them reach that goal. For CLAIRE, participation in the HLG-AI is an important component of working with representatives of the European Union and the European Commission, and we are very pleased to see this work getting underway.