Innovation biotope at historic site: Ceremonial opening of the Ingolstadt MIDS
Creating a scientific basis for exploiting the potential of digitalization, developing it further in a responsible manner, and teaching young people the fundamentals of artificial intelligence and machine learning – these are the goals pursued by the Mathematical Institute for Machine Learning and Data Science (MIDS) at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (KU). Following a one-year start-up phase, MIDS was ceremoniously opened on Monday at its headquarters – the Georgianum in Ingolstadt, the extensive renovation of which is in the home stretch. The celebration took place at a historic site – the seat of the first Bavarian state university.
In her speech, KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien emphasized that the new institute and the networking in the region offer the opportunity to be at the forefront of changes brought about by digitalization through excellent research and teaching. The underlying aim here, she said, was also to prepare students for their role in a data-driven future. The guiding principle for the KU is its concept for "a human-centered digital society”. Gien praised the great commitment of the MIDS researchers that is representative of the attitude that also contributed to the recent acceptance of the KU as a member to the German Research Foundation. The President also thanked the Free State of Bavaria for funding a MIDS-based Chair of Reliable Machine Learning through the High-Tech Agenda and the city of Ingolstadt for funding three endowed chairs.
In his welcoming address, Ingolstadt's Mayor Dr. Christian Scharpf reminded the audience that Ingolstadt, as the seat of the first state university, represented the "academic cradle" of Bavaria. "I am pleased that, through you, the Georgianum will now once again be in university use for an emerging area of research," Scharpf said. Universities are invaluable resources and make the city more vibrant, he said. He emphasized that MIDS was an important component here.
As head of the State Chancellery, Minister of State Dr. Florian Herrmann conveyed congratulations from Prime Minister Dr. Markus Söder and invited the audience to ponder how the scholars depicted on the facade of the Hohe Schule would have thought about machine learning a good 550 years ago. "It is impressive how much evolved, was conceived and developed since then to the present", Herrmann said. Every era has its challenges, he continued, but problems can only be solved through innovation and not by complaining. The KU was the right place to reflect on questions of responsibility, because such aspects are considered even more intensively at the KU compared to other universities and research institutions. "The KU is dear to us because you can feel its special approach", Herrmann said. With the MIDS, the KU is expanding its portfolio with a crucial focus for the future, he said: "How can algorithms make our lives healthier, more sustainable and safer? How do we advance climate research in a data-driven way? And how do we reconcile machine learning with sensitive data use and our value foundation? I am convinced that a real innovation biotope has been created here to answer exactly these questions."
As Vice President for Research, Prof. Dr. Jens Hogreve explained that the KU wants to accompany and explore the transformation that is taking place as a result of digitalization: What does it do to the people, the region, the economy? "The MIDS does not mark the end of the KU's development at the Ingolstadt campus. With our ‘future campus’, we want to create a space that brings citizens together with the university", Hogreve said.
Seven professors and a dozen early-career researchers currently conduct research and teach at the MIDS, which was founded in 2022. The spectrum of topics ranges from mathematical modeling of climate and weather to soil science and signal processing to aspects of machine learning and digital business models. The MIDS team has also been offering a Bachelor's degree program in "Data Science" since last year. For the second year of the program, 500 international applications have already been received, as Professor Dr. Nadja Ray, Chair of Geomatics and Geomathematics, reported. Professor Ray, MIDS speaker Prof. Dr. Götz Pfander and Prof. Dr. Felix Voigtlaender, holder of the Chair of Reliable Machine Learning, gave the audience a brief insight into their respective fields of work and the orientation of the institute. Professor Ray conducts research at the interface of sustainability and soil science, and Professor Voigtlaender focuses on the mathematical background of errors in machine learning methods in order to make them more robust and reliable.
The first Bavarian state university, which had its seat in the Hohe Schule from 1472, had been moved first to Landshut and later to Munich in 1800. The institutions in the Georgianum – a foundation for destitute students and a seminary – also moved with the relocation of the university. The Georgianum was subsequently used by a brewery, among others. In recent years, INKoBau, a subsidiary of the city of Ingolstadt, has carried out very extensive restoration work on the historic Georgianum. The project is now in the final phase, and MIDS employees will soon be able to move into the first offices. Full completion of the Georgianum, including the historic barrel hall, is scheduled for next year.
For more information on the Mathematical Institute for Machine Learning and Data Science (MIDS), visit www.ku.de/en/mids.
More impressions from the MIDS opening ceremony
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