What is Cyber Valley?

Cyber Valley is one of the largest research cooperations in Europe in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) with partners from politics, science, business and society. Cyber Valley strengthens research and education in the fields of machine learning, computer vision and robotics as well as the exchange between these scientific disciplines. By promoting the exchange between science and industry, and by fostering start-ups, the technology transfer in this important research field is strengthened. The Cyber Valley initiative is located in the Stuttgart-Tübingen region and is funded by the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.

What is the purpose of Cyber Valley?

AI methods are being vigorously developed worldwide and, as with all technologies, there are positive and possible negative uses. We believe it is important that these methods are researched in Europe, embedded in open societies and involving a critical and factual public debate. In this context, Cyber Valley promotes basic research as well as young scientists in the field of machine learning, computer vision and robotics. As a first step, ten new research groups were established, all lead by very promising, highly talented young scientists. Five research groups were set up at the participating universities Stuttgart and Tübingen and five at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS). Further research groups will follow in the coming years. Additionally, ten new university chairs for artificial intelligence and machine learning have been established at both universities, which have already been filled or are currently in the process of being filled. Furthermore, a new graduate school, the International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems (IMPRS-IS), is responsible for the training and supervision of more than 100 doctoral students. The Cyber Valley initiative is thus reacting to the lack of experts in the field of AI.

Cyber Valley also promotes a start-up culture among the scientists so that findings from basic research can be applied quickly. Cyber Valley provides an ideal environment for the transfer from research to industry. In addition, joint research projects have been established among the partners, which will also strengthen the transfer in this area of future technology. The lively exchange between application-oriented industrial research and curiosity-driven basic research will create new impulses for both sides and create the ideal breeding ground for spin-offs.

Where is artificial intelligence being used?

Intelligent systems are already ubiquitous today. For example, intelligent algorithms for automatic image enhancement are part of almost every commercially available camera, and with every Internet search, a machine learning algorithm predicts which search results might be of interest to the user. In addition, vacuum-cleaning and lawn-mowing robots are already in use in many households. This is just the beginning. Autonomous vehicles will drive on our roads presumably in the next decade, or AI systems will help to diagnose and treat diseases by bringing together experiences from the treatment of many patients. Intelligent power grids will adapt to weather and load forecasts and transport both energy and information. With Industry 4.0, our manufacturing will digitize and machines will communicate autonomously. The environment of such intelligent systems can be real (e.g., service-robots or self-driven cars), but it can also be completely virtual (e.g., autonomous Internet algorithms or data mining systems), or a combination of both, which is becoming increasingly important in the context of the Internet of Things.

The latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence are based on machine learning. Given a number of examples, computer programs can recognize regularities in data sets and transfer them to similar situations in the future. No wonder that on the one hand research institutions and companies worldwide are working to further boost the intelligence of machines, and on the other that artificial intelligence is regarded as a key technology of the 21st century that will strongly influence science, the economy and our everyday life.

Why the Stuttgart-Tübingen region?

The Stuttgart-Tübingen region is one of the most innovative regions in Europe. It is home to outstanding universities, research institutions as well as numerous world-leading companies. Hence, the Stuttgart-Tübingen region has great potential to play a leading role worldwide in the development of artificial intelligence and robotics. Already today, the region is a leader in AI research: Researchers from Stuttgart and Tübingen occupy the top position in scientific publications in Germany. In the field of machine learning, the region even occupies the top position in Europe and is among the top 10 locations worldwide.

What does the Cyber Valley initiative mean to the region?

With its high industrial productivity and pronounced export strength, the Stuttgart-Tübingen region is one of the strongest economic regions in Germany. The Cyber Valley initiative is of central importance for the region's economy, as expertise in artificial intelligence, the key technology of the 21st century, will soon be decisive for all industrial companies. The Cyber Valley initiative wants to do its share in enabling the industry in Baden-Württemberg and Germany to maintain its competitive strength and to ensure that jobs are preserved or created. This will be achieved – above all – by training highly qualified experts in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning at the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen and at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.

When was Cyber Valley established?

The Cyber Valley initiative was inaugurated on 15 December 2016 by Baden-Württemberg's Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann, the Science Minister of the State of Baden-Württemberg Theresia Bauer, the President of the Max Planck Society Martin Stratmann and other project participants with the signing of a letter of intent. With the announcement of this letter of intent, the public was involved at an early stage.

Who is part of Cyber Valley?

There are currently eleven core partners from society, politics, science and industry involved in the initiative: the State of Baden-Württemberg, the Max Planck Society with the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen as well as the companies Amazon, BMW AG, Daimler AG, IAV GmbH, Porsche AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. The Cyber Valley is also supported by the Christian Bürkert Foundation, the Gips-Schüle Foundation, the Vector Foundation and the Carl Zeiss Foundation. Further partners from science, business and society are to join in the coming years.

Who finances Cyber Valley?

In total, all Cyber Valley partners – the Max Planck Society, the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, several foundations, the business partners as well as the State of Baden-Württemberg – are investing 165 million Euros in the location as a first step towards establishing an internationally competitive AI hotspot.

The State of Baden-Württemberg, the Max Planck Society and the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen are investing in new research buildings in Stuttgart and Tübingen, ten new university chairs and ten new research groups, a new graduate school and central facilities to support Cyber Valley.

The industrial partners support the research groups at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the two universities with a total of 7.5 million euros from 2018 to 2022. In addition, two endowed professorships will be financed by the industrial partners: a Chair for Machine Learning in Tübingen, funded by Robert Bosch GmbH, and a Chair for Digital Entrepreneurship in Stuttgart, funded by Daimler AG.

What are the contributions of the industry partners used for?

Cyber Valley is all about free basic research, not about product or contract research. The Humboldtian educational ideal of freedom of research and teaching is at the forefront here. The MPI-IS and the two universities are not outsourced development departments of their partners.

Most of the contributions from the industry partners go to the Cyber Valley Research Fund, to which only junior research groups with their particular research idea can apply. The fund is used to finance free research projects, i.e., projects that are not specified or dictated by the industry. The topics are selected according to the criteria of scientific excellence by a joint commission of all partners, in which the representatives of science have the majority. The participating companies can propose topics, but it is entirely up to the scientists to decide which research project they want to tackle.

Can the participating companies freely use the research results?

No, there are clear rules on how scientific results are handled. The intellectual property remains with those researchers or their institutions who have discovered and invented something new. Groundbreaking scientific innovations that could be turned into attractive products or services should primarily be used to set up new companies. If the inventors are not interested in setting up a company, the companies participating in Cyber Valley can apply to use an invention financed by the research fund. They must pay a customary license fee for the use of an invention.

How is freedom of research guaranteed within Cyber Valley?

The scientists are employed either by the Max Planck Society or by one of the two universities, hence by the State of Baden-Württemberg. They are thus just as free in their research as other researchers outside the Cyber Valley initiative. This is guaranteed by the Constitutional Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Why does Cyber Valley promote start-ups?

The Cyber Valley initiative aims not only to educate talented young people, but also to encourage them to stay in Germany. One way to achieve this goal is to help researchers realize their ideas by setting up their own company. Today, innovations in the field of digitization often take place outside the traditional technology transfer by young, highly innovative start-ups. In this way, know-how not only remains in the region, but also new jobs and companies are created that can make a significant contribution to securing Germany´s economic strength.

What research topics are on the agenda?

The research spectrum in the areas of machine learning, computer vision and robotics is broad. It ranges from novel numerical algorithms enabling learning machines to become faster and more reliable, to intelligent software for self-driven vehicles and smart traffic guidance systems, to soft robots whose design is based on nature. Medical applications are also of great importance. Thanks to innovative methods such as genome or proteome analysis as well as high-resolution imaging methods, the mass of medically usable patient data is increasing rapidly. The available amounts of data can often only be meaningfully evaluated with the help of algorithms. AI is an important tool for the development and application of new, effective therapies tailored to individual patients.

Will Stuttgart and Tübingen become a location for military research through Cyber Valley?

No, there is no military research – neither within the framework of the Cyber Valley cooperation nor within the universities and Max Planck Institutes. This is clearly excluded by the civil clause of the University of Tübingen and the rules of the Max Planck Society on the responsible handling of research freedom and research risks. However, the so-called 'dual use' problem must also be taken into account in knowledge-driven basic research: The results of basic research are usually unpredictable and can often be used for both useful and destructive purposes. In this complex field of tension between benefits and risks, research at the Max Planck Society and universities is committed to the well-being of mankind and the protection of the environment. Researchers from Cyber Valley are therefore actively involved in ethical debates worldwide and oppose autonomous weapons systems, for example.

Who researches the social impacts and risks of AI?

A central concern of the scientists involved is to deal with the social effects arising from technological progress. Some research topics in Cyber Valley, for example, deal with the question of how AI systems can guarantee data protection or how algorithms can prevent discrimination. It is important for the participating researchers to shape the change that AI will trigger in society and the economy in a responsible manner in line with our European values. This is why, for example, scientists from the University of Tübingen who deal with ethical issues were involved in the process at an early stage.

Why does the Cyber Valley initiative work together with Amazon?

Amazon is one of currently seven companies partnering with the Cyber Valley cooperation. Amazon seeks collaboration with scientists in Cyber Valley, because leading experts in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning work here. In return, the Cyber Valley partners welcome Amazon's commitment, as the company is one of the few corporations in the world to conduct its own ambitious AI research. The establishment of an Amazon research center in Tübingen therefore benefits the local research institutions and the entire region. After all, science thrives on close professional exchange, which is promoted by the creation of a spatial cluster.

How and when can the general public inform themselves about AI research?

The Cyber Valley partner institutions regularly open their doors and are in constant contact with the public via many forums – most recently, for example, in the context of the Max Planck Day on 14 September 2018 with a symposium on AI and society with over 400 participants in Tübingen. The topic of the nationwide Science Year 2019 is Artificial Intelligence. The University of Tübingen is planning a general study series on research in artificial intelligence and machine learning for the 2019 summer semester. In addition, we will be focusing on AI research at the next 'Tübingen Window for Research' on 24 May 2019.

How will AI change our society in the years ahead?

Our society will change rapidly in the coming decades due to intelligent systems. Researchers, politicians, business leaders, philosophers – all those who deal with the future – agree on this. Intelligent systems are already everywhere today. The speed at which they enter our 'real world' is enormous. Research is progressing at the same pace, yet it is lagging far behind the natural sciences and is only just beginning. Whatever the future may be, it is important that Europe contributes its academic and social values and traditions with self-confidence and plays a leading role in the development of the artificial intelligence of the future. We should not leave AI research to others, such as North America and China. For Europe to play a leading role, strategic investment in basic research is needed. Tomorrow's learning methods are invented today. This is where Cyber Valley comes in. In order to understand autonomous systems, an interdisciplinary education is necessary that did not exist in Germany in a structured form until now. This has changed with the Cyber Valley initiative. The aim is to establish a research area in the field of intelligent systems in the Neckartal region and to launch exemplary research funding programs. Thus, the Stuttgart-Tübingen region is to develop into the world's leading hotspot in the new research area of intelligent systems and make the name 'Cyber Valley' internationally known.