The positive result of the evaluation validates the agreement reached in the joint declaration of intent in October 2021 between the BMBF and the German states of Berlin, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, and Schleswig-Holstein. According to the agreement, DFKI will play a key role in implementing the German government's AI strategy. The research center will contribute its experience to a considerable extent, especially in the transfer of research results into industrial practice, but also in the qualification of competent scientists. Its position as the only institution financed with industrial participation is hereby taken into account.
Part of the evaluation process was a detailed report with analyses as well as a full-day on-site visit with presentations. More than 100 DFKI scientists presented their work, demonstrated AI systems live, and discussed with the evaluators. On display were not only completed and ongoing work but also strategic research lines for the evaluation period of the next seven years.
DFKI CEO Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger explains: "We are extremely pleased with the excellent feedback from the review panel, but also with the confidence of the BMBF and the DFKI's host states in our work. We will continue to work on human-centric AI over the next seven years, actively implementing our transfer mission, initiating spin-off foundations from DFKI, and being an open and constructive partner in the civil society discourse on the applications of AI research results."
Mario Brandenburg, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, remarks on the evaluation process: "DFKI plays an important role in applied AI research and our national AI ecosystem. The evaluation by an international commission once again certifies this. At the same time, it confirms that DFKI still has great potential for expansion and names 13 concrete recommended actions. In the coming months, DFKI will bundle its strengths and potential in a strategy process and intensify AI research and the transfer of research results to industry and the market."
DFKI is funded by the BMBF with up to 11 million euros per year and receives the same amount from the host states. These funds are tied to specific projects involving application-oriented AI basic research that can have a high impact as part of DFKI's transfer mission.
DFKI will use these funds to advance research topics and lines beyond the projects acquired in competitive procedures, taking into account the evaluation results. These include, in particular, hybrid or neuro-symbolic AI systems that combine the advantages of machine learning with rule-based methods. They should be self-explanatory, result-transparent, and comprehensible. Focus topics of the DFKI research lines for the coming years are, besides disruptive AI computing architectures and long-term autonomous and resource-efficient systems, also social and behavioral AI companions, quite as wearable AI for enhanced co-cognition, data-driven human-robot interaction, and highly networked immersive assistants. The general orientation is towards credible and trustworthy AI systems based not only on interactive and conversational but also on emergent and hybrid machine learning.
In accordance with these research lines, DFKI will continue to concentrate on human-centric AI: For DFKI, this means focusing even more on building systems that enhance and extend but do not replace human capabilities. DFKI will integrate its basic research activities, including publications, projects, and transfer activities.
The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) was founded in 1988 as a non-profit public-private partnership. It has research facilities in Kaiserslautern, Saarbrücken and Bremen, Niedersachsen, laboratories in Berlin and Darmstadt, and branch offices in Lübeck and Trier. For more than 30 years, DFKI has been researching "human-centric AI," combining scientific excellence and business-oriented value creation and focusing on industrial and societal relevance in the crucial research and application areas of artificial intelligence. Currently, about 1,480 people from over 65 nations are working on 400 projects at DFKI. The funding volume in 2021 was 76.3 million euros.
DFKI encourages employees in spin-off initiatives and supports them, for example, with part-time contracts in the start-up phase. To date, more than 100 spin-offs have emerged from the DFKI.
DFKI is a strong partner for industry and research institutions in Europe. With the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics of the Czech Technical University in Prague (CIIRC CTU), DFKI is working on AI for the production of the future in the European Industry 4.0 research project RICAIP. A strategic agreement on a concrete AI partnership has been in place with the French computer science institute Inria (Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies du numérique) since 2020.