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Barcelona becomes a new ELLIS Unit, the European network of excellence in AI research

  • News
  • The Barcelona ELLIS Unit is the third largest of the network and is composed of 21 researchers from five universities and five research centres of the Catalan knowledge system
  • It will promote interdisciplinary and transversal research, foster links with industry and train the next generation of outstanding talent in this field
  • The candidacy of the Catalan unit of ELLIS has been one of the working lines of the Artificial Intelligence Research Alliance (AIRA) together with the Government of Catalonia and the agents of the country’s knowledge system, within the framework of the Artificial Intelligence strategy of Catalonia (Catalonia.AI )

Catalonia will host one of the four new units of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), the pan-European network of excellence in artificial intelligence that connects the best researchers in the field of AI in Europe. The new Barcelona ELLIS Unit will be the third largest among the almost 40 units that make up the network, highlighting the high quality and impact of AI research in Catalonia.

The candidacy of the Catalan unit of ELLIS has been promoted by the Government of the Generalitat in coordination with AIRA and the agents of the country’s knowledge system, within the framework of the Artificial Intelligence strategy of Catalonia (Catalonia.AI), led by the Department of Business and Work.

The Minister of Business and Work, Roger Torrent i Ramió, has expressed very positive views on Catalonia’s integration into the European AI network, stating that «this fact once again places Catalonia at the forefront of research and technological excellence in Europe«. In addition, he added, «initiatives like this help us generate and attract new research talent and retain what already exists in Catalonia, which is essential for the business structure of the country».

According to Joaquim Nadal i Farreras, Minister of Research and Universities, the opening of ELLIS in Catalonia is a milestone «to establish Catalonia as a key node in artificial intelligence research in Europe, a field of study with an immediate impact on the well-being of citizens and the industry productivity«. Nadal congratulated «the coordination between the agents of the Catalan knowledge system and the Government, which has culminated in the confirmation of this great news, once again demonstrating that working together as a system adds up to much more than the individual contributions of everyone«.

10 research institutions involved

The Barcelona ELLIS Unit is comprised of 21 researchers, fostering collaboration and strengthening ties within the scientific communities of 10 universities and research centres of Catalonia: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Universitat de Barcelona (UB), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Centre de Visió per Computador (CVC), Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (IRI/CSIC-UPC), Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS), Institut d’Investigació en Intel·ligència Artificial (IIIA-CSIC) and the Intelligent Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Research Center (IDEAI-UPC).   

The newly established ELLIS unit Barcelona will promote interdisciplinary and transversal research in AI, foster strong links with industry and train the next generation of outstanding talent in this field. Its scope of work will focus on fundamental research in machine learning and related fields such as vision, robotics and natural language processing.

This Unit will be co-directed by Dr Carme Torras, IRI/CSIC-UPC research professor and Dr Dimosthenis Karatzas, CVC associate director and UAB professor.

«After presenting his famous 3 laws of robotics, Isaac Asimov had to add law 0: ‘A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm’. Now we are at a similar turning point in AI and ML… and not in Science Fiction but in the real world! ELLIS network is a privileged ecosystem to develop ML in an ethics-driven beneficial way for humanity, and the new ELLIS unit Barcelona is eager to join forces and contribute to this aim» states Dr Carme Torras.

Catalonia: a hub of innovation, leadership and talent attraction in AI

Catalonia possesses exceptional capabilities, making it an ideal country to excel in artificial intelligence. It has an internationally renowned AI scientific and academic community, with more than 25 research groups in 16 different institutions, world-class scientific infrastructure, and a strong ICT sector with 180 companies specialized in AI, generating a turnover of 1,350 million euros and 8,500 professionals.

With the aim of making Catalonia a hub of innovation, leadership and attraction of talent and companies in the field of AI, the Generalitat de Catalunya launched “Catalonia.AI” strategy in 2020. The creation of the ELLIS Barcelona Unit has been one of the Artificial Intelligence Research Alliance of Catalonia (AIRA) working lines, which is together with the Centre of Innovation for Data Tech and Artificial Intelligence (CIDAI), the Observatory of Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (OEIAC) and the AI Community of the Digital Catalonia Alliance, one of the Catalonia.AI strategy four pillars, specifically dedicated to the promotion of research in artificial intelligence and the attraction and retention of talent in this field.  

By becoming an ELLIS unit, Barcelona has cemented its position as a top AI research hub. This achievement not only highlights the quality of research in Catalonia but also helps to consolidate the region’s reputation as an attractive location for talented AI professionals.

«The ELLIS Barcelona Unit is supported by the globally recognized Catalan ecosystem of science and innovation, with Catalonia being the 3rd region of the EU in the ranking of participation in Horizon 2020 AI projects. We strongly believe that the Unit will foster knowledge-based innovation opportunities to promote ethical development and adoption of AI solutions in Europe and significantly boost scientific collaboration at the European level,» explains Dr Dimosthenis Karatzas, co-director of ELLIS Barcelona Unit, CVC associate director and UAB professor.

European AI Research Network

ELLIS is a network of distinguished researchers and experts in Europe dedicated to advancing the field of artificial intelligence, generating technological innovation and creating a positive social and economic impact. Established in 2018 as a result of a movement within the European scientific community, its goal is to transform Europe into a leading region and enhance its excellence and technological sovereignty in strategic fields such as AI.

Today, ELLIS comprises 39 units across 14 countries, including four new units in Graz (Austria), Potsdam (Germany), Trento (Italy), and Barcelona. By bringing together the best researchers and experts in the field, ELLIS is committed to promoting excellent research and driving competitiveness on an international scale, shaping the future of AI towards human-centred, beneficial, and safe AI.

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