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Artificial Intelligence at the UG: Innovative theory and impactful applications

Datum:27 augustus 2020
Auteur:Team Industry Relations
© photo: Franck V. on Unsplash
© photo: Franck V. on Unsplash

Artificial Intelligence at the UG: Innovative theory and impactful applications

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become one of the hot-topics in research of recent years. At the UG, AI research is being performed already for a longer period of time by a large number of researchers at different faculties. Various centers dedicated to research and education in AI exist in a variety of faculties. "The increasing use of artificial intelligence in technologies that consumers use on a daily basis, in essential services such as health, policing and critical infrastructures, does not mean that we’ve figured out all the aspects and effects of artificial intelligence,” says prof. dr. Jeanne Mifsud Bonnici, Professor in European Technology Law and Human Rights and co-founder of
STeP. Instead, she sees it as a prompt for research: “What it actually shows is an acute need for in-depth multidisciplinary research to produce technologically and socially responsible, safe and secure AI for the next generation of users and beneficiaries of AI." 

At the UG, interdisciplinary is one of the strengths, also for research and education in AI. As prof. dr. Niels Taatgen, professor at the Bernoulli Institute for Mathematical, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, summarizes: “UG researchers are already working on the next frontier in Artificial Intelligence.” AI runs through all eleven faculties. The university facilitates a unique environment for collaboration between disciplines and faculties. It also has long-standing experience in building an adequate architecture for artificial intelligence and data science, thanks to the Center of Information Technology.

The relevance of research in AI today is well-known, but the long history of AI research at the UG is astonishing and worth exploring. The University of Groningen has a tradition in Artificial Intelligence education. Already in 1986, an educational program called “alfa informatica” (computational linguistics) was developed. Since then it has been renamed to information science and addresses topics like machine translation, natural language processing and author profiling. 

Allen Newell, one of the godfathers in artificial intelligence and honorary doctor of the University of Groningen, was involved in the development of the interfaculty educational project ‘Technical Cognitive Science’ with input from philosophy, linguistics, psychology, physics and computer science. In 2001, this program was changed to a full programme called “artificial intelligence” with one bachelor and multiple master tracks. This AI programme of the University of Groningen has proven its excellence: it is consistently rated the #1 AI programme in NL in both “keuzegids hoger onderwijs” and the Elsevier ratings. A numerus fixus was established in 2019 to guarantee high education standards.

AI inherits much potential to be used for having societal impact, but also has its own risks. Digital Inclusion, privacy and the collaboration between humans and machines are only some of the examples where UG researchers play important roles in overcoming societal challenges using AI. UG research in AI crosses university borders. Researchers serve as members of political committees shaping regulations on applied AI and cooperate with companies and governmental organisations to accelerate innovations in artificial intelligence.

The UG is contributing to research initiatives popping up all over the EU and Netherlands.  For example, CLAIRE is a European research network on human-centered AI where the Bernoulli Institute of the UG contributes. ELLIS, an initiative to leverage European AI, also accommodates individual UG researchers. Also on a national level, the UG is active: the university is a member of the recently formed Dutch AI coalition. Additionally, NWO has published a research agenda for AI where prof. dr. Bart Verheij, chair of Artificial Intelligence and Argumentation at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, is a member of the writing committee. Within the Dutch Research Agenda (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda) several routes are connected to AI promising interesting projects in near future.   

In the coming weeks, we offer the chance to learn more about all the exciting projects in AI happening at the UG. Stay tuned for state-of-the-art AI applications in targeted marketing, an AI system that helps us to understand human thinking better, AI in law enforcement and other exciting projects.