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“AI Made in Germany”: Overview of artificial intelligence (AI) in Germany

The topic of artificial intelligence is all over the media. An international race to create the most intelligent machines and smartest systems has begun. Germany’s goal is clear: To become an international leader in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics – the ultimate goal would be to be number one worldwide. Germany’s position compared to its competitors like the USA or China is the subject of a somewhat heated debate featuring differing assessments. This article presents the current status of AI in Germany and sheds some light on AI policy, courses of study, research, startups, as well as platforms and projects.

Political support of AI

One thing seems clear: AI will make far-reaching changes to the way we work and our society. For that reason, the German federal government is concerned not only with country-wide financial support for AI, such as planned investments amounting to 3 billion euros by 2025, but also with turning technological progress into social progress.

The federal government’s strategy on artificial intelligence
Since 2018, the federal government has been accelerating Germany’s ascent to becoming one of the leading nations in the development and application of AI technologies with its national AI strategy. Many experts were involved in carving out the strategy, which defines the essential framework conditions against the backdrop of the technology's dynamic development. The AI strategy defines twelve spheres of action. It is designed to be a learning strategy, which will be continuously fine-tuned by policy makers, the scientific community, the business sector as well as civil society. The federal states have also defined strategic goals and concrete measures in the field of artificial intelligence based on the federal strategy. Further information on the strategy and examples of projects are available from https://www.ki-strategie-deutschland.de/home.html. On this page you can find the overall strategy available for download in German and in English.

Science Year 2019
For nearly two decades, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the initiative “Wissenschaft im Dialog” (Science in Dialogue) have been organising the Science Year, which focusses on an academic discipline or current topic in the field of science. Science Year 2019 is dedicated to artificial intelligence. Various institutes, including education and higher education institutions, and companies contribute their research competences to the initiative. Formats include film presentations, round table discussions, hands-on activities and many other events. The Science Year website offers lots of information and news, for instance on projects, events and ways in which you can get involved:  https://www.wissenschaftsjahr.de/2019/english/.

Degree programmes in AI

Experts on artificial intelligence are in high demand worldwide, as AI is one of the key technologies of the future. Accordingly, German higher education institutions are eager to train young people in this field and offer related courses of study. Here a few examples:

Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin: Humanoid Robotics (Bachelor)
As part of this bachelor’s degree course in Humanoid Robotics at Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, students learn how to construct robots and programme their behaviour and learning capabilities. The course also covers ethical, legal and social aspects of robot use. Learn more here: https://www.beuth-hochschule.de/en/b-hrob.

Technical University of Munich: Robotics, Cognition, Intelligence (Master)

The interdisciplinary master’s degree course “Robotics, Cognition, Intelligence” at the Technical University of Munich combines curricular content from the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science informatics. Lessons are taught in German and English. Learn more here: https://www.in.tum.de/en/for-prospective-students/masters-programs/robotics-cognition-intelligence-msc/.

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich: Data Science (Master)
This master’s degree course in Data Science offered in English at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich conveys core competences for developing systems with AI. Students are taught skills in mathematics, computer science and statistics to enable them to work with big data. Learn more here: https://www.m-datascience.mathematik-informatik-statistik.uni-muenchen.de/index.html.

AI research institutes

The federal government intends to double its funding for existing centres of excellence in AI research by 2022. Important research centres have been established at the universities in Munich, Tübingen, Berlin, Dortmund/ Sankt Augustin and Dresden/ Leipzig. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence maintains several branches in Germany. The following are introductions to several AI research centres:

German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (several locations in Germany)
The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) was founded in 1988 and is the country’s leading research institute in the field of innovative AI-based software technologies. Emanating from its twenty research areas and research groups, eight centres of excellence and eight living labs, product functions, prototypes and patent-ready solutions in the field of information and communication technology are developed based on application-oriented basic research. Further information is available on the institute’s website: https://www.dfki.de/en/web/.

Cyber Valley (in the Stuttgart-Tübingen region)
The research association “Cyber Valley” involves, among others, the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, the universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen and large corporations like Daimler, Bosch, Amazon and Facebook. That makes Cyber Valley one of the largest research collaborations between business and science in Europe in the field of artificial intelligence. International top teams conduct research primarily on machine learning and autonomous robotics. The Research School for Intelligent Systems is to train 100 doctoral candidates in the future. Further information is available on their website: https://www.cyber-valley.de/en.

Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (München)
This inter-disciplinary institute was established in the autumn of 2018 at the Technical University of Munich. The aim of the integrated research centre is to develop innovative and sustainable solutions and technologies to meet pivotal current and future challenges with the aid of machine intelligence. The centre’s work focusses on health and mobility. Further information is available here: https://www.msrm.tum.de/en/home/.

Funding programmes for AI research

In order to make Germany one of the top AI nations, the federal government and German funding organisations support leading national and international scientists who are engaged in AI research in Germany. Various funding programmes were initiated to attract the brightest minds to Germany. Below, we introduce a few of these programmes:

Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in Artificial Intelligence (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation)
The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship is awarded to world-leading scientists and researchers from abroad so that they may conduct long-term, future-oriented research at German institutions of higher education. Up to 30 additional Alexander von Humboldt Professorships in the field of artificial intelligence are to be filled by 2024. This will be the Foundation’s contribution to the government’s national AI strategy, which has as one of its aims the creation of new AI professorships in Germany. In addition, up to ten professorships per year will remain open to all disciplines as usual. For further information on the Humboldt Professorship visit: https://www.humboldt-professur.de/en.

Strategic Funding Initiative for Artificial Intelligence (German Research Foundation)
The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft = DFG) is looking to fund projects in all areas of AI research with a new strategic AI funding initiative in various programmes. Within the scope of the initiative, up to eight research groups and up to 30 junior groups will be invited to these programmes and funded. For instance, the DFG is calling upon particularly-qualified junior researchers in the field of AI to apply for the Emmy Noether Programme.  Information on this call for applications is available here: https://www.dfg.de/en/research_funding/announcements_proposals/index.jsp.

Artificial Intelligence – its impacts on the society of tomorrow (Volkswagen Foundation)
The funding initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation is aimed at scientists and researchers who collaborate in consortia from technical and social studies and/or the humanities. Its goal is to facilitate innovative project constellations and interdisciplinary collaborations within a scientifically and socially relevant and current field of study. The new perspectives arising from these should open up new viewpoints and approaches to finding solutions. Further information is available here: https://www.volkswagenstiftung.de/en/funding/our-funding-portfolio-at-a-glance/artificial-intelligence-and-the-society-of-the-future.

Companies and startups

There are a number of companies in Germany that are developing rapidly in terms of artificial intelligence. Also, more and more young companies and start-ups in the country are delving into artificial intelligence. Most of the AI startups are located in Berlin and Munich, followed by Karlsruhe and Hamburg. Here is a small selection:

MonitorFish (Berlin)
MonitorFish has developed an approach for intelligent real-time monitoring of aquacultures in fish farming. It uses the principles of machine learning, sensor networks and de-centralised data analysis in a data cloud, to enable automated real-time health management system for fish. The smart diagnostics system also automatically generates recommendations for action steps at an expert level and thus maximises the fish yield and the animals’ well-being. Click here to visit the company’s website: http://monitorfish.com/.

Wandelbots (Dresden)
The Dresden-based startup offers technology that enables people to programme robots, even without expert knowledge and large financial investments. That way even small companies may quickly, simply and profitably use industrial robots in the future. The young company plans to offer special robot training stations starting in 2020. At these stations, laypersons can learn to programme robots with special tracepens. Click here to visit the company’s website: https://www.wandelbots.com/en/.

Merantix (Berlin)
This startup wants to support companies in turning results from AI research into practical applications in different industries, namely the automotive and health sectors. To do so, it has created an incubation platform where global teams of engineers and company employees work on translating research results into concrete industry products and applications. Click here to visit the company’s website:

Federal AI Association
The Federal AI Association is made up of more than 160 innovative German companies, startups and experts whose main business mission is the development and application of AI-based technologies. Click here to visit the website and view the member directory: https://ki-verband.de/#about.

Future AI projects

The federal government's AI strategy not only provides for greater financial support for existing facilities and projects, but also encourages new projects to be initiated in the field of artificial intelligence. Here is a selection of the projects that are planned in 2020 and beyond:

German Aerospace Center: Secure AI Systems
Starting in early 2020, the new Institute for Secure AI Systems of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V = DLR) in Sankt Augustin and Ulm will be working on keeping AI-driven communication, navigation and earth observation satellites secure when they access external data sources. The DLR project is supervised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Opening of the German AI Observatory
The AI Observatory is a project of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Its aim is to analyse the impacts the application of AI has on the way we work and on society as a whole. As a next step, the project aims to generate recommendations for action steps and establish European and international structures for AI in labour and society.

Establishment of Digital Research Hubs in the Health Sector
Starting in 2020, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be testing collaborations between various regional partners dealing in digital health care approaches, in particular in the field of AI applications. The project starts with university clinics who took part in the Medical Informatics Initiative.

Further information on AI in Germany

Especially since 2019, the supply of information and platforms on artificial intelligence in Germany has grown significantly. The following is a list of websites and platforms which offer more information on AI in Germany:

Germany's platform for Artificial Intelligence (Plattform Lernende Systeme)
Germany's platform for Artificial Intelligence is a place for exchange and cooperation and combines expertise from the scientific, economic and social realms on AI. The website offers a wide range of information on AI in Germany, but also on AI initiatives and key stakeholders worldwide. On the basis of selected case studies from a variety of industries it is illustrated how the use of new technologies can aid our society now and in the future. Click here to visit the website: https://www.plattform-lernende-systeme.de/home-en.html. Another highly informative area of the site is the AI Map of Germany, which introduces important academic AI stakeholders and their research foci, as well as case studies from the business world and practical applications: https://www.plattform-lernende-systeme.de/ki-in-deutschland.html. The map is continuously updated with further examples of innovative applications where AI plays a key role. A regularly updated overview of the German AI startup scene lists startups active in the field of artificial intelligence, making them visible and thus offering networking opportunities. The overview is available here: https://www.plattform-lernende-systeme.de/ai-startups.html.

DWIH Focus Topic
The German Centres for Research and Innovation (Deutsche Wissenschafts- und Innovationshäuser = DWIH) also dedicated the year 2019 to AI. As part of their overarching, yearly “Focus Topic”, the DWIH pool their multi-faceted activities, working with their supporters and international partners to find answers to the crucial issues of the future. Click here to visit this year's focus topic website: https://www.dwih-netzwerk.de/en/dwih-focus-topics/global-cooperation-in-artificial-intelligence/.

December 2019


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