NORA receives funding for National AI Research School
The year could not have started better for the AI community in Norway. NORA’s application to create a national research school in AI, Machine Learning and Robotics has been funded by The Research Council of Norway under the call “Research School for Quality and Relevance” for a maximum of eight years. In addition to the NORA partners, the research school will benefit industry and public sector. Cathrine Pihl Lyngstad, director of Data and AI at NAV, will be the chair of the board.
NORA started the work of establishing a research school for AI already in 2020. A PhD symposium was organized in February 2020 and how to establish a research school was discussed and planned also in NORA’s Education Council. In 2021, The Research Council of Norway announced the call “Research School for Quality and Relevance“. NORA with partners from industry and public sector applied, and the application was successful. NORA will receive an annual funding of NOK 2 millions for up to eight years. The NORA partners will further contribute more than NOK 1 million annually. The NORA partners are thrilled and ready to start the work of educating the best people and establishing Norway as a destination for AI talents.
This was excellent news! The field of AI is moving in an extreme pace and will have an enormous societal impact the years to come. In collaboration with industry and public sector, our Research School will keep up with this pace and educate researchers with the most relevant background in both basic and applied AI. I strongly believe that in the next years Norway will play an increasingly more relevant international role in AI. We are building solid national and international collaborations, and together with other larger Norwegian initiatives, such as the Norwegian AI Cloud (NAIC), the Research School will increase the attractiveness of Norway as a destination for AI talent. I am really excited about the future, says Klas H. Pettersen, CEO of NORA.
The primary objective of the research school is to raise the quality of PhD education in AI to a leading European level, with a high degree of relevance for the labour market.
Secondary Objectives are:
- Enhancing and filling gaps in the PhD education by commissioning new PhD courses and upgrading existing courses for wider participation.
- Create added value for the Norwegian AI community by connecting the research school to the NORA research and innovation ecosystems.
- Bringing the stakeholders (industry, public sector and others) together through industry days, workshops, internships, start-up activities and innovation projects.
- Empowering students by giving them responsibilities to organise technical tutorials and include them in the program agenda of top-quality scientific events.
- Facilitate student access to national high performance computing infrastructure.
- To enhance international collaboration and increase the attractiveness of Norway as a destination for AI talent.
The structure of the research school will include a research school board and several councils.
To address the gender challenges in the field of AI, NORA has chosen a radical approach towards gender equality. The research school board and all advisory councils are led by women. Chair of the board will be Cathrine Pihl Lyngstad, director of Data and AI at NAV. Marija Slavkovic (UiB) will lead NORA’s Education Council, Mari Serine Kannelønning (OsloMet) will lead the PhD Student Council and Signe Riemer-Sørensen (SINTEF) will lead the Innovation Council. Of the nine persons in the board, six are women (67%).
The research school´s project manager is Arnoldo Frigessi (UiO), and NORA´s CEO Klas Pettersen is the project administrator supported by the NORA secretariat.
The Research School board will be composed of partners of NORA, Norwegian industry and the public sector. The leader of the board will be Cathrine Pihl Lyngstad, who is heading Data Science and AI at NAV. Other board members are:
- Robert Jensen (UiT), also leader of SFI Visual Intelligence
- Marija Slavkovik (UiB), a driving force of AI education at UiB, who was also the driving force behind the NORA pilot Ethics course at the PhD level which is now organised as a collaboration between UiB and UiO
- Liv Dingsør, CEO of DigitalNorway, one the key industry-focused AI bodies in Norway, contributes with her strong industry insights and perspectives
- Kjersti Engan (UiS) and Nils-Olav Skeie (USN) are bringing strong experience from AI research and education
- Hans Ekkehard Plesser (NMBU) has been the past board leader of the RCN-supported Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience and hence have strong experience in running and managing a Research School
- Signe Riemer-Sørensen (SINTEF) will enable important industry linkages with her experience and connections to a large number of industry-facing projects within AI
- Mari Serine Kannelønning (OsloMet), who will be a PhD student representative in the board.
Riemer-Sørensen, Slavkovik and Kannelønning will lead the Education, Innovation and PhD Student Council, respectively.
The Education Council extends on an existing framework within NORA. The council gives advice on education, and has been pivotal in the RCN application for NORA to become a RCN supported research school. The education committee will act as the scientific resource pool for advising the topics of new PhD courses to be commissioned, provide technical inputs for the scientific programs and evaluate student applications that may be solicited for the described Research School activities, such as student exchange with our international collaborators.
The Innovation Council will be a new council in NORA. It will serve as the council for industry and public administrations. NORA’s research institutes SINTEF, NORCE, Simula and Vestlandsforskning together with the SFIs SFI Visual Intelligence, SFI Big Insight and SFI Media Futures will be essential in bridging the NORA partners with industry. Several industry clusters will populate the council, among them Norway’s three industry clusters for AI. Selected companies and public organisations will also have representatives. The council will bring perspectives and contribute with strong insights from industry, industry clusters, SFIs, public organizations, computational infrastructure providers and other research schools focused on AI. One key role of the Innovation Committee is to provide internship (consulting) opportunities to Norwegian PhD Students to complement their research. The Norwegian industry can benefit by engaging high quality young researchers through the research school and eventually it may influence the industry to include AI research and development in their roadmaps and encourage them to apply for the industry/public sector PhD scheme at RCN. The council will also provide datasets to solve problem statements for data competitions, give input to PhD courses and provide labour relevant input to the PhD education in general.
The PhD Student Council is a newly formed council by NORA, comprising of 24 PhD students spread across 9 NORA partners. The members represent a wide and rich variety of research topics. The PhD student committee allows NORA to gather direct insights into current requirements and educational gaps, which we can use to validate proposed activities. Furthermore, the committee provides a great channel for the dissemination of activities among student organisations and networks, engaging students as resource persons and volunteers in planning and execution of scientific tutorials. As an example, when NORA recently concluded a workshop on AlphaFold and RosettaFold methods where the hands-on tutorial was led by a PhD student, Jonas Verhellen.
The International Advisory Council will connect NORA to prominent international European AI networks and provide valuable input and insight based on their experience with their respective research schools and doctoral programs. Members of the International Advisory Council will include representatives from WASP (Sweden), HIDA (Germany), The Alan Turing Institute (UK), FCAI (Finland), AI Pioneer Centre (Denmark) and CLAIRE (Europe).
The NORA partners are thrilled about the RCN announcement. We ready to start the work of educating the best people and establishing Norway as a destination for AI talents, Klas Pettersen says.