Highly innovative ecosystems emerge at outstanding academic institutions like Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, and ETH, which serve as international talent magnets and incubators of innovation. Thus, rather than just building a “virtual” network amongst institutions, ELLIS aims at creating new working environments for outstanding researchers to enable them to combine cutting-edge research paired with the creation of start-ups and industrial impact. As a stepping stone towards this goal, in September 2019 ELLIS started establishing smaller ELLIS Units based on a call for proposals carefully reviewed by an international selection committee. These units bring together the best AI researchers at their locations and fulfill a set of criteria to ensure excellence and to be maximally competitive at the international level. Beyond this grassroots initiative, ELLIS also calls for action directed towards European countries willing to invest in excellence in AI to set up larger ELLIS Institutes that are strong and agile enough to be able to compete with the best of academia and industry worldwide.
An ELLIS Unit has an annual budget of at least EUR 1.5 million, while a full-fledged ELLIS Institute will require more significant resources (building costs as well as an annual budget increasing to EUR 30 million). Excellent researchers at other sites can be connected to ELLIS units and institutes via fellowships, and the sites work closely together in research, training and infrastructure.
There are two deadlines per year to submit a proposal for an ELLIS unit: March 1st and September 1st. Guidelines on how to submit a proposal can be found here.
The official launch of ELLIS Units took place on September 15th 2020 from 10 am (CEST) as a virtual event. Since the first 17 units were announced in December 2019, the ELLIS initiative has gained significant momentum, adding another 13 units at top research institutions across Europe. To highlight this rapid progress toward securing the future of European AI research, each unit presented its research focus. While an in-person launch was initially planned in spring at the Royal Society in London, the event was postponed as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and now took place online. The presentation of all ELLIS units can be found below and the detailed agenda of the event (together with the recordings) can be found here.
Alongside with the event a Call to Action and a Declaration of Support were signed by the unit directors and the representatives of universities and research institutions involved.