Bulgarian professor realizes his dream of creating a world-class hub of technological excellence – EURACTIV.com

In April, Sophia hosted INSAIT, a new institute dedicated to computer science, artificial intelligence (AI) and technology aimed at building a world-class research center, retaining talent in Bulgaria and attracting scientists through internationally competitive research facilities. Remuneration

The idea behind the INSAIT project is to address existing gaps in the sector and create comparative advantages. Despite the positive legacy of the 1980s, the current state of science and research in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe remains unrivaled with the West.

However, it has advantages: a skilled workforce and an idea “Stay hungry, stay stupid” (“Be dissatisfied, be mad”), As Steve Jobs says.

INSAIT is located in Sofia, which was among the top 20 technology cities in Europe in 2021, according to FT.

The organization is the work of Professor Martin Vechev, a leading computer scientist, full professor at ETH Zurich and a member of ELLIS (European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems).

He has 20 years of experience in world-renowned organizations and seeks to develop and improve his country’s technological and scientific environment by bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Europe.

The project dates back to 2003, when he applied for a scholarship to Cambridge. When asked, he said “What are you going to do in 30 years?”He replied: “Build a world class center in Bulgaria following the example of Cambridge”.

INSAIT’s goal is to solve the region’s central problem: to revitalize it and turn it into a world-class scientific and research powerhouse that is one of the most important economics in today’s world – artificial intelligence and computing.

It also covers key topics like machine learning, quantum computing, data security, robotics and more.

As Velchev explained, AI is already finding applications in all areas of life, such as pharmaceuticals, self-driving cars, data protection, and financial markets. According to him, AI research is of strategic importance for any country that wants to have a competitive economy.

“Eastern Europe is full of brilliant scientific mindsets, but the aspirations of the people are often limited due to lack of facilities, funds and support. This has led to a “brain drain” from Eastern Europe, a systemic problem that discourages innovation. INSAIT is well on its way to reversing this trend and competing globally. “Mr. Vechev explained.

Brain drains have hampered innovation in Eastern Europe because highly skilled people have to study in the West and advance their careers.

In Bulgaria, between 1990 and 2007, when it joined the European Union, an estimated 60,000 people left each year. Bulgaria faces many economic challenges, but many of them relate to the country’s population.

Declining population growth, high mortality rates, aging population and continued emigration of talented young people are significant threats to the country.

What can be changed

“This is completely new to Eastern Europe”In an interview with Mr. Vechev said Free Europe. “We are bringing the top 1% of universities in the world to Eastern Europe. A

In fact, the names of the new institute’s supervisory boards and advisory boards are high-profile – including professors from Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American University of Israeli Technology.

According to Mr. Vechev, the biggest winner of the project will be the Bulgarian scientific community. The institute should be a special unit of Sophia University, “St. Clement Ohridsky”.

It will employ about 300 people, including 25 to 30 professors and researchers, the remaining 200 to 250 doctoral students, junior researchers and postdocs. There will also be many Masters students, which could be in the thousands.

Funding for INSAIT is secured for the next ten years, with € 95 million from the Bulgarian state and an additional € 6 million from technology giants such as Google, DeepMind and Amazon Web Services.

The institute will also receive € 6 million from the Bulgarian technology company SiteGround and € 500,000 from various Bulgarian entrepreneurs and investors.

INSAIT has benefited from the support of four Bulgarian parliamentary groups According to the institute, public funding is unprecedented in Eastern Europe.

“The Bulgarian government can do a lot more: establish a joint grant program with Israel, Switzerland, the United States and other countries, as well as provide additional support by putting INSAIT at the center of its agenda.Mr. Vechev says.

Such support will help INSAIT attract world-class skills and train the next generation of scientists, highly skilled researchers and engineers. This will create more job opportunities in the region and provide an ideal environment to support startups and deep technology entrepreneurs.

According to the team behind INSAIT, the outlook for the country and the region is bright.

Their short-term goal is to place INSAIT in the European top 20 in computer science, according to CSrankings.org, and to have the institute recognized worldwide within 10 years.

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