New research emphasis "Intelligent Systems"

Max Planck Society establishes highly innovative research facility for "Intelligent Systems" in Baden-Württemberg

February 17, 2011

The Max Planck Society is restructuring the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, thereby creating a research facility that will focus on the area of intelligent systems. This includes computer sciences and biology, as well as innovative aspects of materials research, already part of the work at the Institute. In addition to the Stuttgart location, another division of the Institute will be established in Tübingen. Each site will have four research departments. To reflect its new orientation, the Institute will also be given a new name. Subject to approval from the Max Planck Society's Senate, it will be called the "Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems". Max Planck Society President, Peter Gruss introduced the new scientific concept of the Institute together with Minister-President Stefan Mappus (CDU) at a regional press conference in Stuttgart.

Intelligent systems can optimise their structure and properties in order to function successfully within a complex, partially changing environment. The innovative scientific concept unites research expertise in the areas of computer science and materials science with expertise in biology, with the primary focus set to be on the basic research and development of intelligent systems.

What makes the new Institute unique worldwide is that it brings together software and hardware expertise in three sub-areas for the first time under one roof – namely perception, learning, and action. Machine learning, image recognition, robotics and biological systems will be investigated in Tübingen, while so-called learning material systems, micro- and nanorobotics as well as self-organisation will be explored in Stuttgart. Although the focus will be on basic research, the Institute has a great potential for practical applications, e.g. robotics, medical technology, and innovative technologies based on new materials.

"The support from Baden-Württemberg has given us the opportunity to establish a promising research field in an area connected with information technology, biology and materials science. This will not just enhance our international scientific appeal, but also strengthen the sustainability of our industry on a local and regional level," said Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society.

The Founding Directors include Bernhard Schölkopf, who previously worked as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Joachim P. Spatz from the Max Planck Institute for Metal Research, and Michael J. Black from Brown University, USA. With Black's appointment, a leading world expert for machine vision will be at the helm of the Institute. The computer scientist took up his work in Tübingen on January 1, 2011. Further appointments are planned.

Steeped in materials science and engineering technology, the Stuttgart location will play a crucial role in the institute's scientific reorientation. The site enjoys close ties with the University of Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer institutes and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research. The Tübingen campus – with the Max Planck Institutes for Biological Cybernetics and Developmental Biology – will contribute its know-how in the field of life sciences. Cooperative partners include the University of Tübingen, the University Hospital and non-university research intuitions in the region. "The spatial and thematic linking of these establishments will increase the potential and appeal of the newly-oriented Institute, and give it a competitive edge on the international stage," said Bernhard Schölkopf.

Whereas existing infrastructure can, for the most part, be used in Stuttgart, a new institute building is part of the planning in Tübingen. The Baden-Württemberg state government has promised a separate financing package worth over 41 million euros for the project, and the state cabinet made a decision approving these funds on 15 February 2011.

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