Microsoft and Inria strengthen their partnership to accelerate the adoption of Artificial Intelligence in France

After more than ten years of collaboration in a joint research partnership, Microsoft and Inria (National Institute for Research in Digital Sciences) have launched phase four of their initiative, with one key goal – to accelerate the deployment and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within France’s technology ecosystem.

This new phase of the partnership between Microsoft and Inria will focus on AI technology to unleash its potential, while putting it at the service of French companies. The launch focuses on two key framework components – research, and the transfer of skills and expertise.

The research component will see Inria and Microsoft Research work together on five joint research projects to help identify the impact of AI on engineering and the development of AI in France:

  • Security and privacy, including the Everest project – an undertaking with the objective of securing more internet transactions by proposing an improved implementation of the HTTPS ecosystem
  • Machine learning HyperScale algorithms for the Cloud
  • Cryptography and the fundamental mechanisms of Blockchain;
  • Computer Vision and its applications for mixed reality
  • Continuation of the long-term efforts around the TLA+ programming language, under the supervision of Leslie Lamport, who previously won the Alan Turing Award in 2013

In addition to this research, both organizations will also share their knowledge and guidance with the startups of the AI Factory program, developed by Microsoft France, Inria, and Station F.

Both partners will intensify the support received by these startups, enabling them to benefit from the expertise, learnings and applications resulting from the work carried out by researchers from Microsoft Research and Inria.

The digital transformation projects deployed by Microsoft on behalf of major French companies will also accelerate their implementation and enable the French economy’s flagship organizations to stimulate the development of new products and applications.

“The partnership we have established with Microsoft has intensified over the years and has enabled us to carry out joint projects for the greatest benefit of all,” says François Sillion, CEO of Inria by interim.

“I look forward to opening a new stage focused on artificial Intelligence today. Like Microsoft, we are convinced of the potential that this new technology represents. Together we wanted to put our cooperation in the service of French companies so that they could benefit from our joint advances and thus stimulate innovation and the development of new services or applications.”

Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Director Microsoft Research adds that “We are very enthusiastic about strengthening our partnership with Inria. France is a land of innovation that has many assets, the power of its research done through many of its schools and universities, and its growing involvement in the development of an ecosystem for a trusted AI. Sealing a partnership with a French research institute like Inria was already a big step forward in 2005, strengthening it is one more step forward for the deployment of AI in France.”

Microsoft – Inria: A growing partnership
Initiated in 2005, the joint Inria-Microsoft Research Centre was inaugurated in January 2007. Today, it brings together a community of over 50 researchers from both partners as well as 25 PhD students and post-doctoral students who contribute to the various joint projects.

Research activities since its inception have been carried out in fields as varied as medical imaging, web security, personal data protection, Machine Learning, Big Data or the safeguarding of the world’s historical heritage. Key highlights from the collaboration include certification-based security improvements, and advances in computer imaging – the latter development enabling a startup called Iconem to create 3D models of architectural sites such as Pompeii, from 2D images.

Other notable developments include Machine Learning algorithms that have helped to improve both the supervised and autonomous learning of AI. The next step is to optimize these algorithms for uses scattered across multiple platforms in the cloud – a search that will be largely simplified thanks to the involvement of Microsoft and its Azure technology.

Medical imaging advances have also been made, through the use of deep learning in the screening and treatment of cancer or heart disease.

Today, AI is a priority for both partners, with more than 60 percent of the centre’s research efforts focused on subjects covered by these technologies. This new phase of collaboration will help accelerate this momentum and contribute to meeting France’s ambition of becoming an AI nation.

Beyond research
Microsoft and Inria have also since extended their association outside of the joint research centre to accelerate the research and digital transformation of French companies. Coupled with the launch of the AI Factory program in 2017, Microsoft also announced joining Inria’s invitation to create the PRAIRIE Institute – a place of excellence destined to become an international reference point for AI.

“More than ten years ago, we made a commitment with Inria to create a leading research laboratory around digital technologies, and many of these projects have become reality, providing concrete applications in our lives,” says Carlo Purassanta, president of Microsoft France.

“We are very pleased to renew this partnership and to reaffirm our commitment alongside research in France to accelerate the development of an artificial Intelligence of trust. This new stage is also part of the various initiatives we have launched since the beginning of the year, starting with the AI Innovation program, which aims to promote the growth of five key sectors in France.”

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