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ELIAS, European project in AI and Sustainability

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ELIAS, European project in AI and Sustainability

An excellent research network for the environment, society and people. Europe aims to develop artificial intelligence tools for environmental and social sustainability and intends to do so by developing an excellent research network with the ELIAS project

Is called ELIAS (acronimo di European Lighthouse of AI for Sustainability) and it is a network of excellence that intends to contribute to the establishment of a European “lighthouse” dedicated to AI, in line with the objectives set by the European Commission.

Combine AI and sustainability, environmental and social, can lead to developments, in terms of projects and solutions, of great interest, as well as highly topical. Europe has long paid close attention to these issues, aware of the challenges to be faced, starting from the climate crisis to the energy crisis. The use of artificial intelligence techniques has and will have an increasingly strategic role in addressing and helping to resolve them. From these assumptions, ELIAS was started, a project and, at the same time, a consortium that intends to connect researchers from the academic world with professionals in the sector: to date 34 partners from 17 countries are part of it. The four-year project is financed with EU funds with over 11 million euros.

Italy has a leading role: the University of Trento coordinates it and six other actors are actively involved, including four universities, the IIT Foundation and an international reference company in engineering matters.

The goal of ELIAS is to develop artificial intelligence tools for sustainability with a low level of technological maturity (between 1 and 5). In particular, three main activities will be explored: AI for environmental sustainability, social and reliable for the individual.

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Employ artificial intelligence techniques to develop sustainable models: with this objective in mind, the EU ELIAS project was conceived and launched, a network of excellence that aims to contribute to the establishment of a European “lighthouse” dedicated to AI. 34 partners from 17 countries are part of the project (funded by Europe with more than 11 million euros) and consortium. The four-year project is financed with EU funds with over 11 million euros and is Italian-led. Environment, society, individual are the application fields on which scientists and researchers from all over Europe will work to define and develop innovative schemes for the entire world of sustainability.

AI for sustainability: the European ELIAS project

ELIAS is based on the experience of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), recognized internationally as a highly successful reality. Founded in 2018, ELLIS is based on machine learning as the engine of modern artificial intelligence and aims to ensure Europe’s sovereignty in this competitive field by establishing a multi-center artificial intelligence research laboratory. Not only that: connected to ELLIS there are collaborative initiatives in tandem with other projects of the European Network of Excellence such as AI4Media, TAILOR (Trustworthy AI through the integration of learning, optimization and reasoning), and HumanE-AI-Net. The aim is to create a complete ecosystem for the advancement of artificial intelligence.

But what will be the modus operandi to connect AI to environmental, social and human sustainability?

«With ELIAS the aim of developing AI for sustainability is defined in the form of three areas: individual, society and environment. The application of artificial intelligence techniques will be defined based on actual needs», explains Nicola Gatti, professor of the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering of the Polytechnic of Milan who is among the participants in the European consortium officially inaugurated in Trento last September.

«When we talk about developing AI for sustainability we are referring to three areas: individual, society and environment. The application of artificial intelligence techniques will be defined based on actual needs.”

Speaking of environmental sustainabilitythe themes are varied, ranging from climate change to everything that can have an impact on the environment.

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As for the social sustainability, the concept is divided into three aspects: one relating to everything relating to the defense of democracy against specific risks (manipulation of elections, violation of biometric tools, etc.); prosperity; the efficient coordination of people in various situations (for example, in the case of city traffic).

Finally we consider the sustainability directed at the individualespecially in cases concerning the health sector: this includes personalized medicine, home care and more.

The use cases developed

At least six use cases fall into these three areas: AI for building optimization (environment) for cost reduction by improving energy consumption through intelligent control systems that require both control algorithms and prediction of actual consumption based on historical models and metadata, such as weather information.

AI for monitoring virtual (social) infrastructure intends to identify cyber attacks that target microservices architecture.

Responsible and user-focused advertising (individual) aims to address the challenges of responsible use of AI in online advertising, where traditional optimization metrics focus on click-through and conversation rates.

Then there is the case regarding the need to Mitigate the misinformed perception of migrants in the EU (social) supporting the conception and definition of counter-narratives by migrants, refugees and students, providing support in verifying information, accessing reliable sources and describing how fake news spreads in social media.

In the environmental field we are working on a use case forAI for predicting the state of vegetation (environment), to study AI-based predictions of the effects of climate change on ecosystems, which can then be translated into predictions of crop yield, forest health and water balance.

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Finally, the Open Materials Discovery project (environment) intends to develop artificial intelligence methods capable of predicting the structure of new materials.

In particular, the research group of the DEIB Department of the Polytechnic will work in the company sector, working both on the security aspect for democratic processes and on the need to make the coordination of people efficient.

The potential developments of ELIAS and AI for sustainability

The ELIAS project is at the beginning of its journey, but the opportunities it opens up are of great interest, as Gatti hypothesizes:

«in my opinion what will arise from the project will be new areas of research that are only mentioned today. The work will focus on defining innovative schemes for the entire world of sustainability: for example, in the society sector there are already entrepreneurial realities that are following it with implications of a certain interest. The aim of ELIAS will be to highlight new problems that will then be studied in the literature, potentially opening up new areas of research.”

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