School of Chemistry launches new AI research initiative for Africa
- Wits University
Africans should be the contributors, shapers and owners of the coming advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, says Professor Zeblon Vilakazi.
The Molecular Sciences Institute (MSI) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in partnership with the Cirrus Initiative, today announced plans for a new artificial intelligence (AI) research operation in Africa.
- Visit the website: http://www.cirrusai.net/
About the Cirrus Initiative
- The creation of a cooperation program: Supporting interdisciplinary cooperation spanning academia and industry around the world through its network, boosting the application of AI technologies and ensuring the transformative potential benefits for the region.
- Adding State-of-art computing to the current research infrastructure: Supported by teams of hardware, software, machine learning and data engineers. It will bring together engineering teams, researchers, computing infrastructure and extensive scientific instrumentation to enable a step change in research efforts of academia and industry in the region.
- Building Open Learning: Ensuring inclusive participation, the dissemination of knowledge and ideas and the development of the next generation of AI researchers.
- The Cirrus FOUNDRY and Cirrus FOUNDRY Fund: The Cirrus FOUNDRYwill create a collaborative environment connecting start-ups to students, researchers, faculty, corporate partners and capital concerned with real world AI innovation. It will ensure that start-ups have the necessary resources, people and skills to better tackle the challenging problems across a range of industries and drive innovation toward significant impact on society. Importantly, the Cirrus FOUNDRY will specialise in fostering support for early stage innovations and in helping start-ups make the transition from science to real world application. Through the Cirrus FOUNDRY Fund, funding provided to start-ups will ensure that they are not wholly dependent on outside capital and will increase the short-term success of the start-up by bridging the “Valley of Death” – the challenge of turning a start-up idea or scientific research into a large-scale commercial application.
- A Research to Communication programme
- An Open Learning programme
- A Residency programme
- A PhD Internship programme
- A Postdoctorate programme
- An Assistantship programme
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at Wits
Wits University has a number of highly skilled artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) researchers piloting the growth of this field in Africa and has the only researchers on the continent to publish regularly in all major international AI, ML and robotics conferences.
AI/ML and Data Science are two of 15 areas of research excellence at Wits. In its pursuit to create a strong research community that can find African solutions to AI challenges, Wits has several interdisciplinary collaborations in AI/ML education, research and innovation.
- From industry, companies such as Google have tapped into local Wits expertise and awarded Africa’s first Google Faculty Research Award in Machine Learning to Dr Benjamin Rosman from the Wits School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. He runs the Robotics, Autonomous Intelligence and Learning (RAIL) Laboratory at Wits.
- The first Deep Learning Indaba in Africa was hosted at Wits in 2017, and has since attracted more than 1,000 of the most ambitious and skilled machine learning practitioners and researchers from across the continent.
- Earlier this year, Wits University became the first African partner on the IBM Q Network for quantum computing research. Wits researchers will investigate the use of quantum computing and machine learning in the fields of cosmology and molecular biology with a specific focus on HIV drug discovery.
- AI/ML technologies are key drivers in Wits’ Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein where an urban community of future thinkers reimagines digital innovation for a more equitable future through research and ingenious collaboration.
- The annual Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival takes place at Tshimologong and brings together diverse digital and technology sectors to collaborate and share skills in digital media and technology innovation, including exploring AI/ML technologies.
- Two third-year students from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering were part of the South African team to take first prize at the 2019 International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany, in June.
- AI and ML are two of the research areas of the Wits Institute of Data Science (WIDS), an interdisciplinary research and training institute with a focus on innovation in data science and machine intelligence, directed by Professor Turgay Celik.
- Thought to be the first study to use machine learning to measure housing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, the innovative study was able to fill the data gaps and revealed that, while housing quality has transformed, the persistence of slum conditions continues to compromise health in the region.
- The Wits Mining Institute and DigiMine use machine learning to make mining safer and sustainable.
- The navigational precision of dung beetles discovered by scientists in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences will in future be used in AI/ML and robotics innovation.
- Brainternet – a project that is the brainchild of Adam Pantanowitz, a lecturer in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, streams brainwaves onto the internet – a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems.
- The new Scilinx Research laboratory and Scilinx Studio develop bespoke business solutions by rethinking the operational process as a complex system, and applying machine learning as an adaptive analytical framework.
- Mathematical Sciences Support is a research support unit with Interest Groups in High Performance Computing; Big Data; Computational Astrophysics; Robotics; Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
- Other AI/ML related research entities include Wits Structured Light Laboratory; DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; Learning Information Networking Knowledge Centre (LINK); Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE); Digital Humanities; Wits Business School/BCX Chair in Digital Business; and others.
- Wits also offers a wide range of honours, master’s and PhD programmes in e-Science, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Digital Arts, and more.
Stay updated with the latest research news in AI/ML and technology/digital innovations at Wits University, by:
- Visiting www.wits.ac.za/future/
- Visiting http://www.wits.ac.za/news/latest-news/research-news/
- Visiting www.wits.ac.za/curiosity/
- Follow #WitsResearch and @Wits_News