Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems extended by five years

Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and ETH Zurich strengthen cooperation

June 08, 2020

Both world class research institutions in the field of intelligent systems have agreed to continue their research partnership, the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems, for a further five years. Meanwhile, senior scientists from the MPI-IS have been appointed as Affiliated Professors at ETH, intensifying the academic exchange.

The Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich – both among the world’s leading institutions in the broad research field of intelligent systems – have further strengthened their cooperation with the agreement to extend their joint research venture, the Max Planck ETH Center for Learning Systems, known as CLS, for another five-year period. The Max Planck Society and the ETH Zurich will jointly contribute an additional five million euros to the center until 2025, doubling the existing funding to a total of 10 million euros. Meanwhile, senior scientists from the MPI-IS have been appointed as Affiliated Professors at ETH, boosting the academic exchange. Starting June 1, Metin Sitti, a Director at the MPI-IS in Stuttgart, will be appointed Affiliated Professor of Physical Intelligence at ETH. Sitti is also a deputy co-director of CLS.

CLS was founded in 2015 in a joint effort to work together on the cross-disciplinary research questions regarding the design and analysis of natural and human-made learning systems. The excellent engineering competences of the faculty and research team members at ETH in Switzerland – one of the world's most prestigious universities in science and technology – ideally complement the competences in natural sciences and computer science at the MPI-IS in Germany. The cooperation spans all levels, from leading experts at the senior scientist level to junior scientists obtaining their Ph.D. Both sides place a high value on this cooperation, believing that strong academic exchange in Europe is vital in order to actively shape developments in modern AI and leads to a higher impact than if every research institution were to forge its own path.

"As the economic and societal influence of AI increases, so will the investments, especially in the US and China. CLS will influence Europe's further development in this field and prove that it is possible to be internationally competitive. CLS has been an inspiration for the nascent ELLIS network connecting outstanding AI research across Europe, and in the next phase of CLS, we want to jointly build a lighthouse for machine learning and modern artificial intelligence in Europe,” says Bernhard Schölkopf, Co-Director and Co-founder of the CLS, who has spearheaded the exchange activities and the extension. The world-leading machine and causal learning scientist is a Director at the MPI-IS and Affiliated Professor of Empirical Inference at ETH.

Artificial intelligence sets the course for the future

A close level of cross-national cooperation between Germany and Switzerland sets the scene for effective partnerships at the academic level. A press statement in mid-May from Winfried Kretschmann, Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, stressed the many similarities between Baden-Württemberg and Switzerland, amongst them the excellent science and research environments. He sees Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a great opportunity for the future, which both nations should help to shape in line with our European values. Hence, an even closer cooperation between ETH and the partners within the Cyber Valley research consortium is of great benefit to both sides, Kretschmann highlighted.

Currently, 51 members and associated members are engaged at CLS: 35 professors from the ETH Zurich and 16 directors and group leaders from the MPI-IS. At the heart of CLS is its doctoral training program. Full CLS doctoral fellows have an advisor at each partner institute, spend time in both locations and ultimately obtain their doctoral degree from ETH Zurich. Currently, 24 young researchers are following this route, with another 6 joining soon following the 2020 selection. Another way for junior scientists to participate is as associate fellows: currently CLS has 17 doctoral associate fellows, plus 15 at the postdoc level. Nearly 40 researchers have already completed their doctoral training in the context of CLS and form a growing alumni network.

Looking ahead, CLS will deepen the existing links and implement a number of structural measures at the senior researcher level, including professor co-affiliations and Max Planck fellowships. Additionally, CLS plans will seek synergies with the Cyber Valley initiative, as well as working closely with the Cyber Valley doctoral program IMPRS-IS to deliver doctoral training opportunities. Last but not least, CLS will cooperate with the growing activities within the Europe-wide ELLIS network.

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