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Western Switzerland at the heart of artificial intelligence research

Tuesday 13 December 2022

With its specialized research institutes, Western Switzerland is at the heart of artificial intelligence research. This work contributes to advancing the field and stimulating innovation in many sectors.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology based on the creation and application of algorithms, which refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think and act like humans. Indeed, these machines are capable of learning, thinking, and reasoning.

AI is an increasingly important area of research and development that has the potential to revolutionize many sectors, from healthcare and education to finance and transportation. Western Switzerland is home to several leading institutes in the field that carry out cutting-edge research on a wide range of AI-related topics, including machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics. Their work is helping to advance the field and drive innovation in a variety of industries. This proximity to infrastructure is one of the reasons why global technology players carry out their research here. Their collaboration with institutes allows for efficient technology transfer and rapid commercialization of innovative products.

Leading institutes for artificial intelligence research

The Idiap Research Institute, located in Martigny, in the canton of Valais, is a research foundation recognized as of national importance by the Swiss federal government, active in research, training, and technology transfer in the field of theoretical and applied AI. The institute focuses its research on several areas, including voice and visual recognition, machine learning, human-machine interaction, robotics, language analysis, social computing, genomics, and bio-imaging. The Idiap institute is known for having invented Torch, the open-source machine learning library, 20 years ago. The library was later taken over by Facebook and developed into PyTorch. Its power, flexibility, and ease of use have made it one of the largest and most successful machine learning software projects in the world.

The Greater Geneva Bern area is also home to the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine (CAIM) in the canton of Bern, a research institution that focuses on the use of AI in medicine. The goal of the center is to develop and apply AI technologies to improve medical services and medical research, as well as to facilitate the work of doctors and nurses. The CAIM takes advantage of the Bernese network of players in the fields of science, health, and industry and develops projects dedicated to the potential of AI technology for medical care. It promotes the commercialization of AI technology innovations and facilitates the incubation of startups.

The Center for Intelligent Systems (CIS) at EPFL in the canton of Vaud brings together researchers working on different aspects of the creation of intelligent systems. Four research pillars have been set up in the fields of medicine, robotics, digital twin, and Edge AI. The CIS promotes the technology transfer from research to society and industry with conferences and makes itself available for questions from industry, society, and politics on the topics of AI, machine learning, and robotics. In addition, the EPFL collaborates closely with other AI research institutions in Switzerland such as the Idiap institute, and around the world, enabling it to exchange ideas and work on large-scale AI research projects.

Another important institute in the field of AI in Western Switzerland is the Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Complex Systems (iCoSys) at the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg. The institute focuses its research on distributed computing, intelligent data analysis, sustainable information and communication technologies, and Industry 4.0. The iCoSys encourages innovation in complex systems and promotes the transfer of knowledge and technology from the academic world to the local and regional economy.

In 2019, Geneva-based multinational Helwett Packard Enterprise, which is active in servers, networking, storage, software, and business services, opened an IoT Innovation Lab. The lab aims to help customers leverage the vast amounts of data generated by devices, machines, and sensors and provides a collaborative environment to conceptualize, develop and test IoT solutions for business outcomes.

Other qualified centers in the field of AI contribute to the advancement of research in this area in Western Switzerland. The region is home to the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) in Neuchâtel, which houses a research program on digital technologies. The University of Neuchâtel and its Computer science department (IIUN), as well as the University of Geneva and the Bern University of Applied Science's School of Engineering and Computer Science, are also carrying out research projects on AI technology and also offer training in the field.

Switzerland ranks third in the world in terms of the number of AI-related patents per capita, particularly for AI patents in the health sector, thanks to its strong ecosystem of life science industries. The field of artificial intelligence is gaining momentum in Switzerland, not least due to the presence of leading research institutes in the field. The close collaboration between these institutes and technology companies, as well as the effective technology transfer and rapid commercialization of innovative products, continue to advance the field and drive innovation in a variety of industries.

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