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ELLIS becomes a founding member of the International Computation and AI Network (ICAIN)

Date of news: 27 January 2024

The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) joins forces with international partners to launch the International Computation and AI Network (ICAIN) – an initiative addressing global inequality in AI. The launch of ICAIN was announced during a joint press conference at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos today.

The new network aims to broaden access to supercomputing, data and software infrastructures, and will operate at the intersection of public and private sectors, academia, and civil society. In addition to ELLIS, ICAIN’s founding members include the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign AffairsETH Zurich, the Swiss National Supercomputing CentreEPFLData Science Africa and the Finnish IT Center for Science, which is the hosting member of the LUMI consortium.

Access to supercomputing facilities is essential for innovative AI-based technologies

Artificial intelligence is playing an indispensable role in our everyday life, will have a profound economic and societal impact on a global scale and can help combat challenges such as climate change and pandemics. However, not all players, especially in the global south, have the same access to expertise and computing resources which are crucial for the development and implementation of innovative AI-based technologies. This is where ICAIN will come in: By broadening access to such resources, the founders of ICAIN aim to enable international research projects that benefit society as a whole and are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the European LUMI and the Swiss ‘Alps’, the new network includes two of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. All founding partners will further contribute to ICAIN by sharing their AI expertise and experience widely.

"ELLIS is a pan-European AI network aiming to create outstanding conditions for AI researchers. More than 1,000 top scientists and leading AI research institutions such as ETH Zurich, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris and Max Planck are part of ELLIS", says ELLIS President Bernhard Schölkopf. "We will contribute our network’s scientific expertise to provide meaningful input on how the compute resources get used, ensuring that the major scientific and social issues of AI are tackled jointly and transparently. We like to think that having ELLIS as a founding partner and co-initiator will be essential to the success of the proposal.”

Fostering transparency and mitigating inequality

ICAIN's goal is to create AI technologies that are accessible to all, thereby contributing to the reduction of global inequality. Its research results will be freely available to everyone. One of the initial projects is the collaboration between ICAIN and Data Science Africa (DSA) - a pan-African organisation that connects data scientists across the entire continent, offers training programmes and supports non-profit research projects in machine learning and data sciences. The goal of this project is to enhance the resilience of agriculture to the impacts of climate change.

The founders of ICAIN hope that further organisations and companies will join the new initiative as partners in the future to increase the network’s impact. During the incubation phase in the current year, the governance rules and coordination processes for ICAIN will be drafted and financing will be secured. In addition, the first pilot projects will kick off with the aim of gathering experience in collaboration with project partners. ICAIN’s organisational structures should be in place by 2025.

About ELLIS

ELLIS is a pan-European AI network of excellence. It builds upon machine learning as the driver for modern AI and aims to secure lasting international leadership of AI made in Europe by connecting top researchers in this field and by creating a multi-centric AI research laboratory. Founded in 2018, ELLIS has grown into a network that counts 41 ELLIS units at world-class institutions in 16 countries, 16 ELLIS programs and a pan-European PhD program. The members of ELLIS are committed to shaping the future of AI in Europe by pushing the scientific and technological boundaries for human-centered, beneficial and safe AI.