Artificial Intelligence a key Sector for the Domestic Economy

Analysis

The Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) is heavily involved in Hungary’s AI development.

Photo by Geza Kurka Photos / Shutterstock.com

In the competition for Artificial Intelligence innovation, the United States is currently at the forefront of research funding, equipment, and human resources, followed by China and then the EU, according to a comparative study made by the American Center for Data Innovation published in January 2021. But that does not mean AI research is not also important in Hungary.

By 2021, more than 30 countries have established national AI strategies. The development of intelligent technologies is gaining new momentum at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), which is at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. In addition, the research groups of the National Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence have also started work.

In a few years, AI has exploded, with few industrial sectors not taking advantage of state-of-the-art technology. Its application will also radically transform the development dynamics of many industries and the related labor market needs, so governments are increasingly supporting businesses by promoting artificial intelligence investment, creating educational programs, and encouraging research and development.

BME is connected to the national AI strategy in many ways, has won tenders to join governmental and EU-themed projects, and participates in several excellence programs. Artificial intelligence-focused thematic research is also underway, from which a total of more than HUF 1.1 billion worth of cooperation has been generated with the university’s large corporate partners, according to the BME website.

It has worked with companies such as Bosch, Continental, Ericsson, Knorr-Bremse, Morgan Stanley, MOL, Nokia, Siemens, and Vodafone in recent years. For example, BME partnered with Knorr-Bremse to develop an AI solution that monitors railway tracks and their surroundings to prevent accidents by initiating early braking. With Nokia, researchers and students at the university are working to develop 5G technologies and will soon turn to 6G.

Building on this institutional background, work was started by the National Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence, established with significant government support, and related research groups from BME as members of the consortium.

Unified Strategy

“We are working on AI research along with a unified university strategy. Six of the eight BME faculties participate in the work of the AI National Laboratory,” says János Levendovszky, Vice Rector for Innovation and Coordinator of Artificial Intelligence Research at the of Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

“The experts of the technical university are active in almost all research and application areas involved in AI; we also deal with machine vision, language technology, healthcare applications, sensors, networking of smart devices and security technology,” he explains.

“For the time being, a small proportion of AI patents filed in the EU can be attributed to Hungary, although there is significant potential in Hungary; I am convinced that we could easily take the lead in mathematically based, algorithmically oriented research,” Levendovszky says.

He adds that the AI National Laboratory, the social, economic, and environmental utilization of research results, focuses on knowledge transfer between research and industry in line with Hungary’s AI National Strategy, which has launched last year and set targets for 2030 to advance domestic AI research. The laboratory was established in 2020 as a consortium of several leading scientific and higher education institutions.

BME is, of course, a member of the consortium, and leads the Computer Science and Automation Research Institute of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network.

Forefront

According to “Who is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU or the United States?”, a comparative study published in January 2021 and undertaken by Daniel Castro and Michael McLaughlin, the United States is currently at the forefront of research funding, equipment, and human resources, followed by China and then the European Union.

The study estimated that, in 2019, the U.S. put up USD 14.3 billion in venture and private equity funding to AI businesses, followed by China at USD 5.6 bln, and the EU at USD 3.2 bln. While China is catching up with the United States at the speed of light, the Union is also significantly encouraging relevant research and has spent EUR 1.5 bln on R&D in recent years, a 70% increase over the previous period.

According to CB Insight AI’s ranking of startups (in an article called “AI 100: The Artificial Intelligence Startups Redefining Industries”), 65 out of the top 100 startups can be linked to the United States, with eight companies based in the United Kingdom, eight in Canada, six in China, three in Israel, and five companies registered in the EU.

The European Union says it aims to encourage a total investment of more than EUR 20 bln a year in this decade. The European Commission has offered more than EUR 4 bln under the Digital Europe program to support high-performance and quantum computing. Under InvestEU, it aims to increase access to finance for AI startups by building on a EUR 100 mln pilot investment fund.

BME also participates in the work of communities that carry out research that underpins the development of intelligent technologies. In addition to AI itself, the university participates in the tasks of the National Laboratory of Quantum Informatics and the National Laboratory of Autonomous Systems.

The latest part of the future-shaping podcast series of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Inno Sapiens (innosapiens.bme.hu), deals with the practical application of artificial intelligence. The goals of the National Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence are also detailed in the program, which is available in Hungarian only.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  March 26, 2021.

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