CWI and Inria kick off intensive research collaboration, tackling societal challenges

The research partners join forces to explore solutions in key research areas.

Publication date
11 Sep 2023

Together with French partner Inria*, CWI will jointly explore solutions for major societal challenges in the coming years. These include projects on energy, cryptography and cybersecurity, quantum computing, and human interaction in a virtual world. 13 and 14 September, researchers from both institutes will come together to discuss the latest scientific developments and intensify their collaboration drastically.

Digital Energy

It has been regularly in the news over the past year: our power grid has reached the end of its capacity. New companies that need a lot of electricity in many areas in The Netherlands are therefore not immediately connected and many end up on a waiting list for years. On the other hand, at some moments solar panels from all households in the Netherlands generate so much power at the same time that the electricity price becomes negative - there is not enough demand at that time to channel all that power there.

This kind of problem requires a quick solution. Since expanding power grids – which require laying cables – takes very long, something else has to be thought of. In his talk on ‘Digital Energy’, Jacques Sainte-Marie from Inria will talk about how computer science and mathematics can assist with this. "AI can help predict network usage: what are the peak moments and when is there low power usage? If you have an accurate picture of that, you can better manage the whole electricity network and obtain more capacity," explains organiser Han la Poutré, who is scientific director of the Inria-CWI collaboration. "Think, for example, of an automated system that locally controls the balance between supply and demand of electricity. So that, for example, your electric car is not charged immediately when you don't need it right away, but only in an hour's time when power is available."

European AI

It is about these kinds of solutions that researchers from CWI and its French counterpart Inria will be researching together: La Poutré: "The EU doesn’t want to depend on American or Chinese AI, because then we have no control over what is done with the data you feed the AI with. European AI is developed with user control in mind, opposed to governments and companies.”

signing collaboration inria cwi
From left to right: French Minister of Higher Education and Science Sylvie Retailleau, chairman/CEO Inria Bruno Sportisse, CWI General Director Ton de Kok and Dutch Minister of Higher Education and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf

Unique form of collaboration in the EU

In addition to energy projects, collaboration and the creation of new joint projects in other key research areas will also be explored, e.g. on human interaction in a virtual world. For example, videoconferencing with colleagues or a virtual meeting with relatives living far away. Here you do not see avatars, but a projection of your relatives that you can even touch - feeling their proximity through sensors.

What all these challenges will have in common is that they focus on societal questions that can be tackled with computer science and mathematics. Newly-created long-term bi-national research groups formed by researchers from both CWI and Inria will investigate these questions. "This level of synergetic cooperation is unique in Europe," La Poutré says. "In this way, we want to gain more influence and funding within the European Union. At the same time, we are contributing to the sovereignty of European AI."

During the meetings in September, the research questions will be further defined. There will also be room for meetings with partners from industry and other research institutes.

Inria and CWI

*Inria is the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology. CWI and Inria have successfully worked together for decades. In April, the institutes signed an agreement to further intensify their cooperation in certain areas and strengthen their role in Europe. The conference in September is a follow-up to this.

The full programme of the CWI-Inria kick of can be found here