One of the most rapidly growing areas of computer science today is Artificial Intelligence or “AI”. With its roots dating back to the early 1940’s, when mathematical models for building neural networks were first presented, AI involves building smart machines that can perform tasks which usually require human intelligence. The ETH Zürich is a leader in such AI research.
Recent advances in deep learning and machine learning form the core of AI, which is now being applied to almost every sector of business, most notably:
In Switzerland the renowned ETH University operates a leading AI hub, bringing together AI researchers across a broad departmental spectrum.
The ETH’s mission is to “foster research excellence, industry innovation, and AI entrepreneurship to promote trustworthy, accessible, and inclusive AI systems”.
In addition to offering numerous events, workshops and debates, the ETH works in close partnership with corporate partners and industry. Current collaborations include:
- Zalando – a leading European online platform for fashion and lifestyle, delivering more than 5’800 brands to 23 countries. Together with the ETH, Zalando is assessing the role of artificial intelligence & virtual humans in retail & augmented reality.
- Nautilus – a major fitness company, has witnessed change in it’s industry over the last two years. With the ETH, Nautilus is assessing a shift in consumer needs, personalised journeys and digitalisation of the fitness industry.
The ETH reports AI is becoming progressively more visible in everyday science, business and society in general. It is changing the way researchers and computers share work. ETH is applying AI in its teaching, research and knowledge transfer.
ETH sees its AI strengths as:
- research into the theory and methods of AI, in mathematics, statistics, computer science, IT, and data science with a focus on learning-based methods.
- applying AI to its cutting-edge research, and the quality of it’s AI infrastructure, in natural sciences, engineering, robotics, health, manufacturing, climate, energy, mobility sectors.
- combining aspects of AI with research in these individual disciplines to create reliable, understandable and trustworthy methods.
As AI is growing in our daily lives, so the numbers of students at ETH studying AI are increasing. Currently around 4’000 students are studying AI at the university, a significant increase from 2012 when only a few hundred students attended a course on machine learning.
A recent publication from the Greater Zurich Area highlighted the success that the ETH is having “attracting companies like a magnet” as partners. The dynamic ecosystem provided by ETH has the potential to revolutionise many sectors of our economy.
The ETH established its AI Centre in autumn 2020 and now boasts over 100 professors involved in 16 specialist areas. To date over 20 companies have partnered with the AI centre including SMEs and start-ups in addition to larger corporations.
The AI Centre’s director for industrial collaboration, Klaus Fuchs, says “companies that wish to conduct research and understand the scientific community are suitable partners” – ideally companies looking to work on a specific topic together with ETH researchers. Projects typically lasting up to four years are a good example of funded work: in 2021 alone, four such projects were launched.
What started in the 1940’s as specialist research into mathematical models to develop neural networks, has now matured into a leading area of computer science. AI is here to stay and if it is not already embedded in what you do today, chances are it will be very soon. The ETH, Switzerland is at its forefront.
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