2023 Mediterranean Machine Learning (M2L) summer school & panel discussion titled “AI opportunities in the Mediterranean region.”
The perspectives of the Mediterranean and the abundance of opportunities that can be offered to the global ecosystem of technological innovation were the subject of the open discussion organized on Thursday, August 31, 2023, at Anatolia College in the context of the 2023 Mediterranean Machine Learning (M2L) summer school.
After two consecutive and successful years in Italy, the summer school was hosted for the first time in Thessaloniki. It was organized by the AI Education Foundation and supported by Google DeepMind, the ACT (American College of Thessaloniki), Aegean Airlines, Deloitte (Deloitte Competence Center), the Pfizer Center for Digital Innovation (CDI), AISERA and Reply.
The lectures and courses took place from August 28 to September 2, 2023, at the premised of ACT (American College of Thessaloniki), a division of Anatolia College, highlighting Thessaloniki as a meeting point for leading scientists and researchers from around the world in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The applications from all over the world exceeded 800 and resulted in a selection based on academic criteria of 180 participants - primarily of advanced Master students, Doctoral students, academics, and practitioners - representing Germany, Greece, the USA, the United Kingdom, India, Iran, Spain, Italy, Canada, China, Morocco, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Holland, Tunisia, etc.
The open discussion panelists were Konstantinos Kyranakis, Deputy Minister of Digital Governance; Dimitris Gerogiannis, CEO, AEGEAN Airlines; Vassilios Vassalos, Director of AI, AISERA; Federico Neri, AI Director, Deloitte Italy; Katerina Tzouvara, Gen AI Ambassador & Customer Engineer Public Sector, Google Greece, and Thanos Stavropoulos, Technology & Innovation Senior Manager, Pfizer CDI.
The panel was moderated by the distinguished researcher Yannis Assael of Google DeepMind and a member of the organizing committee, which consists of Andrea Banino, Dimitris Kotzias, Francesco Romano, Francesco Visin, Martina Zambelli and Nemanja Rakićević.
"This extended participation of scientists and researchers who are considered leaders in their field, and from so many countries, signifies the importance of the Mediterranean area as a crossroad of knowledge and the emergence of Thessaloniki as a beacon of technological innovation. At the same time, I always felt that as scientists it’s our duty to contribute back to where one comes from. The aim of the M2L Summer Schooll is not only to transfer and explore our scientific fields but to empower the local and Mediterranean ecosystems with AI expertise. Greece's enthusiastic reception serves as a profound inspiration for what lies ahead," stated Yannis Assael during his introduction, thanking all the M2L Summer School supporters on behalf of the organizing committee.
As a founding member of M2L, Francesco Visin of Google DeepMind stated that "the inspiration behind M2L stemmed from when I contributed to respective organizations as a teacher and experienced first-hand the students' satisfaction, participation and interest as they felt the uniqueness of the opportunity given to them, which inspired me. I felt we had to do it in the area where I was born, where I feel at home, the Mediterranean." He also noted that "the organization of a summer school can be challenging. However, it was gratifying to see the participants interact and develop life-changing relationships."
In addition, Google DeepMind's Francesco Romano, a founding member of the M2L Summer School, said that "it's fulfilling to see the participants interacting with each other and being so willing to participate in the scientific dialogue. We feel that it is the most beautiful reward of all our effort for the organization."
"An excellent level of speakers characterizes M2L. We are happy to offer this opportunity for free to students from the Mediterranean and other countries as they attend lectures from the best professors and experts in Artificial Intelligence. Students with a solid academic background are exposed to the most important side of learning, which encourages initiative and leads to the first steps of the research process. They also have the opportunity to be inspired by their peers and put theory into practice. Finally, as Artificial Intelligence is a field with extremely rapid developments, it certainly embraces the philosophy of lifelong learning. This is also one of the reasons why we want to organize actions like this, disseminating the educational material to the rest of the community", added Dimitris Kotzias of Google.
On behalf of ACT (American College of Thessaloniki), a division of Anatolia College, that hosted and supported the M2L ummer School, the President of Anatolia College, Panos Vlachos, emphasized that "the presence in Thessaloniki of so many scientists and researchers in the fields of Artificial of Intelligence and Machine Learning is a testament that the city is emerging as an international innovation center. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can bring vital, positive changes to our lives and future. I believe that events where the technological, economic, social, and ethical dimensions of technological development are discussed are critical."
September 2023 is the starting point for the digitization of the National Land Registry, which concerns the public records of 390 land registry offices across the country (about 600,000,000 pages), as stated by the Deputy Minister of Digital Governance, Konstantinos Kyranakis, during the panel discussion. The project is due to be completed in the next two years. Mr. Kyranakis also referred to the new initiative of the Greek government, the establishment of a National Council for Artificial Intelligence with the participation of distinguished scientists and researchers.
"In two years, there will be no companies that do not use Artificial Intelligence," he noted and argued that familiarization with new technological developments should start from primary and secondary education. "Our legislators also need the training to understand Artificial Intelligence so that our laws can become more tech-friendly." The Deputy Minister added that Greece has made significant steps in introducing and implementing new technologies, digitizing, and developing the innovation ecosystem. However, the effort needs to be accelerated as technology evolves exponentially. Mr. Kyranakis stressed the need to enrich further and utilize the state digital portal "gov.gr" so that citizens are better informed about the legislative work, their rights, and responsibilities, but also the need to implement AI tools in crucial areas such as fire prevention and the health care system.
Dimitris Gerogiannis, CEO of AEGEAN Airlines, pointed out that technology and, in particular, the application of advanced methods of optimization, predictions, and artificial learning, technologies that are evolving among others under the general term Artificial Intelligence, indeed provide us with excellent possibilities for optimizing the travel experience and improve the operational functioning of the company. "However, we must not forget that human intelligence can make technology a productive tool in every manifestation of economic activity and a lever for improving the quality of life. As has happened in every wave of technological and scientific development, human intelligence drives the development of technology and the creation of the overall framework to ensure its correct application for the benefit of all. That is why we at AEGEAN, at the same time as investing in new aircraft, in our technical base, and overall in technologies that improve our operation and increase our competitiveness, listen to the constantly evolving needs of our passengers and invest in the skills of our people and their technological training so that we can respond, through our products and services, to them in the best possible way" noted Mr. Gerogiannis.
Federico Neri, AI Director of Deloitte Italy, emphasized the technological development and innovation opportunities emerging in the Mediterranean region, as well as the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence in the development of innovative solutions necessary for text management, but also in the recognition of emotions such as irony and sarcasm in the written word. "Artificial Intelligence is an excellent tool that allows the management of large volumes of information and texts, which would not otherwise be possible." This particular Deloitte center has developed highly innovative solutions for managing information in texts in 100 different languages, performing a massive amount of work. As a result, the company has increased its staff by 30% in the region. Deloitte Italy's AI Director expressed his sincere optimism about the recent developments in AI and described the Mediterranean as a place of meeting and osmosis that has every prospect to create innovation. "TN is currently at the forefront of interest and scientific research. For all of us scientists working in this field, it's a dream."
Vassilios Vassalos, Director of AI, AISERA, which specializes in IT applications for businesses, announced that the company's office in Greece is expected to double its 50 employees within the next 18 months. AISERA was founded seven years ago in Palo Alto, California, as a startup and today maintains offices in Greece, Canada, and India with 270 employees. The office in Greece was the first to open in Europe and today focuses on Dialogue Systems, Knowledge Management, and Foundational Models. "There is a lot of talent in the Mediterranean, and investments in the region will continue and increase," emphasized Mr. Vassalos. "We need to strengthen the Greek ecosystem of startups that can invest more in Deep Tech and ensure that small Greek businesses can raise funding." He argued that the Greek State should emphasize formulating and implementing policies and utilizing human resources with a technological background. "The legislative process should consider not only the legal dimension but also the needs of society, which is not only observed in Greece but is a generalized phenomenon in many countries."
Katerina Tzouvara, Gen AI Ambassador & Customer Engineer Public Sector, Google Greece, emphasized that "Artificial Intelligence is in Google's DNA" and discussed the company's Artificial Intelligence applications and services to startups through Google Cloud. In addition, Google provides training programs, hands-on guidance, and technical support to startups designing cloud tools by providing selected companies with Cloud Credits. Ms. Tzouvara said she was optimistic about the development of Artificial Intelligence. "Thanks to it, we have already entered the 4th Industrial Revolution and can create a positive impact for the benefit of society."
Artificial Intelligence is present in Pfizer's international Center for Digital Innovation activities, said Thanos Stavropoulos, Technology & Innovation Senior Manager of the Pfizer Center for Digital Innovation (CDI). Mr. Stavropoulos spoke about open innovation and the priority of the Digital Innovation Center to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with the innovation ecosystem. The prospects for developing Artificial Intelligence technologies in the Mediterranean region are significant, and he emphasized while pointing out the need to connect education with the business sector, such as by strengthening industrial PhDs.
Federico Neri, AI Director, Deloitte Italy, Vassilios Vassalos, Director of AI, AISERA, Thanos Stavropoulos, Technology & Innovation Senior Manager, Pfizer CDI, Katerina Tzouvara, Gen AI Ambassador & Customer Engineer Public Sector, Google Greece, P:anos Vlachos, Anatolia College President, Dimitris Gerogiannis, CEO, AEGEAN, Konstantinos Kyranakis, Deputy Minister of Digital Governance, Yannis Assael of Google DeepMind and a member of the organizing committee of the 2023 Mediterranean Machine Learning (M2L) summer school.