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Quadruple Excellence


The German national Excellence Strategy has decided which new Clusters of Excellence will be funded from 2019 onwards. On September 27, 2018, the selection of 57 research alliances as Clusters of Excellence was announced. These winners were chosen from 88 full proposals and 195 original applications. The Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) was involved in four applications, all of which were selected for funding as Clusters of Excellence. In Stuttgart, MPI-IS scientists were directly involved in both of the successful proposals at the University of Stuttgart. In Tübingen, MPI-IS is involved in two of the University of Tübingen's three approved clusters.

This quadruple success demonstrates the strength of the Stuttgart/Tübingen region in artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as the synergy between the MPI for Intelligent Systems and its two neighboring universities. Dr. Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, Managing Director of the MPI-IS Stuttgart site, sees the regional significance of this achievement, stating, "the funding of all four Clusters of Excellence in which our institute was involved is a great achievement that will further strengthen our cooperation with the University of Stuttgart and the University of Tübingen.

Think tank MPI-IS.


This is the next milestone in our successful cooperation with the two universities after the Cyber Valley initiative and our joint International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems" (IMPRS-IS, of which Kuchenbecker is Spokesperson). She continues, "although it was established just seven years ago, the MPI for Intelligent Systems is already helping fuel the research excellence of the region."

The Stuttgart Cluster of Excellence, "Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture" (ICDCA) highlights strong research areas at the University of Stuttgart that are complementary to the expertise of MPI-IS researchers and have the potential to benefit humanity.

Importantly, the University of Stuttgart recently realigned its research profile under the vision 'Intelligent Systems for a Sustainable Society', thereby creating intensive synergies with research at both sites of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Institute scientists are contributing deep expertise in robotics to the ICDCA cluster, focusing on multi-robot systems and human-robot interaction. There are also close links between MPI-IS and the second successful cluster at the University of Stuttgart,"Data-integrated Simulation Sciences" (SimTech).

The Tübingen Cluster of Excellence "Machine Learning in Science" is particularly closely linked to the MPI-IS. The cluster's spokesperson, Professor Ulrike von Luxburg, is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Tübingen and a Max Planck Fellow at the Tübingen site of the MPI for Intelligent Systems. Von Luxburg was the first doctoral student in the Department of Empirical Inference, with which Bernhard Schölkopf established the research field of machine learning in Tübingen in 2001.

The cluster's second spokesperson, Professor Philipp Berens, is also an alumnus of Schölkopf’s department and has close ties to the MPI-IS. The institute's participation in the other Tübingen cluster "Image-Guided and Functionally Instructed Tumor Therapies", is based on a long-term cooperation in the application of machine learning methods in medical imaging.

Professor Bernhard Schölkopf, Director at the MPI for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, regards this success as the result of a strategic development: "when I was appointed to the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, machine learning was still a niche field. The Max Planck Society trusted me, and doubled down by establishing the MPI for Intelligent Systems in 2011. The University of Tübingen reacted and invested strategically. The successful cluster applications show what we can achieve together, and we are only at the beginning."

The following Clusters of Excellence, in which the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems is a partner, will be funded from 2019 for an initial period of seven years:

Excerpt from the press release of the University of Stuttgart:

Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture (ICDCA, Stuttgart)

This Cluster of Excellence aims to harness the full potential of digital technologies in order to rethink design and construction, and enable groundbreaking innovations for the building sector through a systematic, holistic and integrative computational approach.

New buildings will need to be constructed for an additional 2.6 billion people worldwide over the next 35 years. Yet the productivity of the building industry has been stagnating for decades, and even today construction accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s resource and energy consumption. New approaches for design and construction are urgently required. Digital technologies make it possible to address these challenges in novel ways. However, their adoption is very slow and typically only focused on isolated aspects of the building process due to the fragmented nature of the building industry and a compartmentalized research culture. The cluster of excellence aims to rethink design and construction based on an integrative computational approach.

A key objective is the development of an overarching methodology of the “co-design” of methods, processes and systems, based on interdisciplinary research between the areas of architecture, structural engineering, building physics, engineering geodesy, manufacturing and systems engineering, computer science and robotics, humanities and social sciences. The Cluster aims to push the use of digital technologies in the building sector beyond the mere optimization of established processes and systems towards new, game-changing approaches for computational design, robotic construction and related building systems.

Partner Institutions: University of Stuttgart, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

Data-Integrated Simulation Sciences (SimTech, Stuttgart)

The Cluster of Excellence “Data-Integrated Simulation Science” targets a new class of modeling and computational methods based on all the data, which is currently available from various sources, in order to take the usability and precision of the simulations as well as the reliability of the decisions based upon them to a whole new level.

Simulations have become an indispensable part of research and development in many different areas, and they make key contributions towards technological progress. Since 2007, the “Simulation Technology” (SimTech) Cluster of Excellence at the University of Stuttgart has advanced simulation sciences in great depth and breadth based on models, methods and computing aspects from an engineering perspective. With its interdisciplinary and methodical profile, it has established itself as an internationally visible research focus. The University of Stuttgart can now advance these findings and successes of its research into a new direction.

Partner Institutions: Unversität Stuttgart, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

Excerpt from the press release of the University of Tübingen:

Machine Learning in Science (Tübingen)

New technologies using artificial intelligence are set to make tangible changes to our world in the coming decades. Recent breakthroughs in the area of machine learning will make it possible. Algorithms are now able to solve ever more complex problems which previously only humans could manage. The new Machine Learning in Science Cluster of Excellence will analyze these developments, which promise to fundamentally change even the process of scientific investigation. The researchers aim to discover the full potential of machine learning and how it can be harnessed for science and academia in general and to understand the changes this will mean for the scientific process.

At the heart of their research are algorithms which recognize complex structures and causal links in data sets; methods with which uncertainties can be quantified in data-driven scientific models; and techniques enabling the researchers to better understand, interpret and control the phases of machine learning. Ethical and scientific theory issues will also be looked at.

Partner Institutions: University of Tübingen, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Knowledge Media Research Center Tübingen.

Image-Guided and Functionally Instructed Tumor Therapies (Tübingen)

The iFIT Cluster of Excellence aims to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the biological processes in tumors in order to develop innovative and sustainable cancer treatments. Cancer treatments to date have frequently proven ineffective in the long term. While nowadays it is possible to contain the disease even in patients with tumors in an advanced state using modern drug therapies, resistance to the treatment nearly always develops. The tumors begin to grow again, despite treatment. The researchers therefore seek to comprehensively map the biological processes in tumors using functional genetic analysis and to identify potential weak points which new medications could target.

They will focus in particular on biological processes which enable tumors to survive under stress. State-of-the-art imaging techniques are used to visualize the stressed state of tumors so that the Cluster will be able to apply new, imaging-based, individually-tailored cancer treatments to the patient and his/her disease. Additionally, innovative immunotherapies will seek to activate the patient’s own immune system, supporting and complementing targeted drug therapy.

Partner Institutions: University of Tübingen, Max Planck Institutes for Developmental Biology and for Intelligent Systems, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology, Margarete Fischer Bosch Institute for Clinical Pharmacology.

Weitere Informationen:

Claudia Däfler | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme

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