Joyce Anne Quinto (JAQ)
Brussels – ULB and VUB vice-rectors Marius Gilbert and Hugo Thienpoint, officially announced on January 18, 2022 that FARI will develop new innovation instruments jointly with Brussels public administrations through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) grant of the NextGenerationEU programme.
For the upcoming years, FARI will serve the Brussels digital innovation ecosystem with people-centred AI projects led by researchers and experts from different domains such as law, artificial intelligence, robotics, and social sciences. During its NextGeneration EU project launch, FARI announced its plans to start a Joint PhD program, collaborative research projects with companies and the public sector, an AI for the Common Good Academy, a Brussels-centred AI Experience Hub, and an AI for the Common Good entrepreneurship support program for start-ups and existing incubation programs. It will also strengthen partnerships with its European counterparts and key stakeholders through outreach and collaborative activities.
Barbara Trachte, Secretary of State in charge of scientific research and economic transition, expressed her particular interest on FARI’s support program for entrepreneurship in AI for the common good. “I am convinced that companies and startups have everything to gain from focusing on AI to develop new solutions to accelerate [Brussels’ digital] transition,” noted Trachte in her message during the launch event.
During the event, Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister for Employment and Vocational Training, Digital Transition, Local Authorities and Animal Welfare, also announced Clerfayt Cabinet’s major support to FARI’s activities in his opening speech. “I am very happy to be able to support this FARI project with 3.6 million euros for the next four years, including 1 million for very concrete projects, pilot projects on which we are already working,” announced Clerfayt.
The four FARI projects currently being coordinated between the academic and public administration seek to kickstart the deployment of AI technologies to improve strategies and processes on four Brussels-specific areas of concern. The first project seeks to exploit the available data to improve the matching of job seekers and offerers on the Brussels market for the benefit of the Brussels public employment service. The second project aims to use animal sales data to prevent illegal animal sales that are detrimental to animal welfare. The third project aims at collecting information and improving, simplifying administrative texts to improve their understanding by citizens with our agency of administrative simplification. Finally, the fourth pilot project aims to define a general strategy for appropriating the potential of artificial intelligence within the Brussels public services and to develop an action plan for its implementation.
AI and data technologies are often disconnected from the people that it supposed to serve. FARI aims to bring these technologies and its governance close to the citizens, by enabling interdisciplinary teams of both ULB and VUB to tackle important social and ecological issues of today.
This sentiment was also expressed by Rudy Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region in his message to FARI. “We are increasingly dependent on instruments, on providers, or even on algorithms that we do not fully understand. Under no circumstances should we leave our collective intelligence to artificial instruments […]. In my opinion, this is where a research centre like FARI makes an important contribution to this collective and necessary reflection at the level of society,” says Vervoort.
Serving as one of the avenues to stitch together research with public service, the launch event featured keynote speeches from esteemed academicians, Stefaan Verhulst (New York University), Aimee van Wynsberghe (Bonn University), and Holger Hoos (RWTH Aachen University), who gave insights on how AI can and should be used sustainably for cities like Brussels to serve the Common Good. They were joined by FARI’s Scientific Advisors, Ann Nowe (VUB) and Hugues Bersini (VUB) in a fruitful panel discussion afterward.
Watch the full conference here.