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Artificial intelligence: Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University involved in a vast CNRS project in Singapore

Published on October 20, 2021 Updated on October 20, 2021
From autumn 2021, Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, through the involvement of one of its researchers, will participate in a vast international collaborative project on hybrid artificial intelligence. This programme will be led by the CNRS subsidiary in Singapore, in partnership with the National Research Foundation (Singapore).

Dedicated to decision-making in “critical urban systems”, one of the many research challenges relating to “smart cities”, the programme will be endowed with a budget of €35 million over a five-year period. Entitled DesCartes, the “Programme on Intelligent Modelling for Decision-making in Critical Urban Systems” will start in October 2021, under the management of Francisco Chinesta.

AI: France - Singapore, a shared ambition

DesCartes is a bilateral French-Singaporean programme funded by the National Research Foundation (Singapore) and the CNRS, which in 2019 opened CNRS@CREATE in Singapore, its first-ever research subsidiary at the heart of the “CREATE” research hub in Singapore.
“The CREATE hub did not have a project in this field. With DesCartes, the CNRS has secured a prominent position within the campus, while responding to the needs identified by Singapore for implementing its smart city policy by 2030, via its national AI strategy launched in 2019, and led in particular by the NRF’s AISG (AI Singapore) programme”, explains Dominique Baillargeat, director of CNRS@CREATE.
He continued, “DesCartes also makes it possible to participate in the French national artificial intelligence plan. Four Interdisciplinary Institutes of Artificial Intelligence (3IA) have been created and may potentially take part.”
At the end of June 2021, the two countries agreed a strong AI research collaboration, focusing on four priority research areas: data and its applications; verifiable and explainable AI; natural language processing; and AI and human-machine interaction.

On the French side, 12 institutions are involved in the programme, alongside the CNRS: University of Paris-Saclay, University of Toulouse 3, Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, University (Paris 8), University of Bordeaux, Paris Dauphine University - PSL, ENS - PSL, University of Strasbourg, ENAC, Arts et Métiers, INP Grenoble, and Toulouse INP-ENSEEIHT. The Singaporean consortium is made up of five universities – Nanyang Technology University, National University of Singapore, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore University of Social Science and Singapore Management University – and the A*Star Institute (Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore’s national R&D agency).


Analysing and optimising usage data in the “smart nation”

The objective of the DesCartes programme is to respond to complex situations related to critical urban systems in the context of Singapore’s “Smart Nation”. This will involve proposing systems in the city that are able to analyse data on the population’s use of services in order to make optimisation decisions. This research could be applied to urban mobility or energy management, or to anticipate the needs of future transport networks, smart industries or smart buildings. The idea is to deploy AI on industrial-scale case studies, involving government agencies and local industries, in order to develop global applications.

“For instance, we intend to develop solutions that optimise supply with demand in the electricity network or relieve traffic for drone taxis or delivery drones, in addition to developing smart predictive maintenance applied to industrial tools,” explains Baillargeat.

These solutions will be developed by some 30 PhD students, 50 post-docs, and more than 80 professors and researchers from Singapore and France, some of whom will be based in Singapore for long-term stays financed by the programme.

Humanities at the heart of the programme

The Singaporean consortium is internationally recognised in the field of smart cities and for the core AI disciplines. The French consortium is internationally recognised in the field of hybrid AI and engineering technologies, and in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). Of the nine DesCartes work packages, four include HSS (two of which are focused exclusively on HSS).

HSS examines AI, both in terms of its legal, ethical and political issues and, more globally, in terms of the values and practices of a desirable future society. It is rare that an international AI project gives such a prominent place to HSS and this is to be welcomed
underlines Marida Di Crosta, associate professor, accredited research supervisor, and researcher in Information and Communication Sciences at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University (Marge research laboratory – EA 3712), who is coordinating the work package dedicated to the creative, communication and legal dimension.

According to her, “It is essential to place the citizen – humans, but also more generally living beings – at the heart of AI devices. Smart cities that do not take into account the needs and practices of end-users, in constant interaction with the environment, are doomed to failure.”
Marida Di Crosta is a specialist in the ongoing changes occurring in the audiovisual sector and the evolution of scriptwriting practices. She is interested in the question of the representations of AI in fiction and art, but also in the use of AI for creation and the possibilities of human-machine co-creation.