Slovenia to Set Up International AI Research Centre with UNESCO

The Slovenian government has announced plans, with official backing from UNESCO, to set up Europe’s first international artificial intelligence (AI) research centre.

Photo: Raconteur

The Department of Intelligent Systems at the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) in Ljubljana will convert into a centre that focuses on the governance and policies surrounding AI.

At an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the institute, Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Marjan Sarec, said: “All of this Slovenian know-how which has been applied for all these years, and all the knowledge that we possessed in the past and that we still possess today is undoubtedly a reason for us, or should I say you, to be proud,”

You are the ones who know how to use this knowledge, who develop new technologies, and who will perhaps develop things that are unimaginable to us today,” said Mr Šarec.

Slovenia has a history and dedication to the field of AI- having embraced it as far back as 1972 when research at the JSI and the University of Ljubljana first began. In the 90s, there was a continued expansion of Slovenian AI research, starting with ‘heuristic search’ into areas like machine learning and qualitative reasoning. As a result, this period provoked an increase in the presence of Slovenian researchers and publications in academia.

Notable achievements for the Slovenian AI industry and research include ‘The Event Registry’ and ‘COPCAMS’ (cognitive and perceptive cameras). ‘The Event Registry’, a system that analyses text news sources in various languages, tracks how news spreads from one location to the rest of the globe. In addition to tracking, it can predict the spread and development of news, which can be invaluable information to journalists.

Photo: Raconteur

‘COPCAMS’, was a collaboration between the institutes of seven European countries, including the JSI. They produced a network of cameras, known as cognitive and perceptive video systems, which can use visual or auditory information to identify and decide essential video streams for transmission. Practical applications of this network include use in the surveillance industry, monitoring of traffic and advanced manufacturing.

Slovenia is among the first EU13 member states aiming to develop and establish a national AI strategy that, in addition to research, is focusing on societal impacts. The planned new centre will be built with the help of UNESCO and will be open to stakeholders from around the world, offering policy support in drawing up guidelines and action plans for introducing AI technology in various fields. The new centre will retain its existing research staff and funding structure, which currently has an annual budget of around €500,000 from national and EU funds. It will also run public consultations with the wider public on the impact of AI. The Slovenian government says it has most AI researchers per capita in Europe- the country has spent just as much on research and innovation as western European countries.

(Helen Svilan)