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Partnership between Inria and Microsoft strengthened to speed up the adoption of AI by French industry

Microsoft and Inria have worked together at their Joint Research Centre for over twelve years. They have now announced that they have renewed their partnership for a further five years and are launching a new phase of joint research, based on the shared desire to speed up deployment of Artificial Intelligence throughout France's industrial ecosystem.

To support this, Inria and Microsoft want to focus on two things: first, on fundamental research, based on five joint Inria - Microsoft Research projects that have been clearly identified for their impact on innovative development and engineering in France. And second, on promoting the transfer of skills and expertise to start-ups under the AI Factory programme developed by Microsoft France at Station F and as part of the digital transformation projects deployed by leading French groups.

"The partnership we've developed with Microsoft has become stronger and stronger over the years and has enabled us to work on joint projects for the benefit of all," said François Sillion, Inria's acting CEO. "It is a great pleasure to be launching this new phase focusing on artificial intelligence. Like Microsoft, we are convinced of the potential afforded by this new technology. We wanted our collaborative research to be useful for French businesses, enabling them to take full advantage of our advances, and thus stimulate innovation and the development of new services and applications."

Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Director of Microsoft Research, said, "We are delighted by the idea of a stronger partnership with Inria.France is a major centre for innovative thinking, and has many points in her favour, not the least of which is the impactful research being carried out at many French institutes and universities, and an increasing commitment to developing a reliable AI ecosystem. Forging a partnership with a French research institute like Inria was already a huge step forward back in 2005, strengthening it goes even further toward deploying AI in France!"

Forging a partnership with a French research institute like Inria was already a huge step forward back in 2005, strengthening it goes even further toward deploying AI in France!

                                                      Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Director Microsoft Research

Two priority approaches to support French business

This new phase in the partnership between Microsoft and Inria will focus on artificial intelligence technology with a view to unleashing its potential and promoting its uptake by French businesses. Two approaches have been defined for the coming five-year period:

  • Extending research in five areas in which Microsoft Research and Inria conduct joint research, continuing on the back of all they have achieved together in the last ten years, and focusing on "formal methods" and AI:
    • Security and privacy, including work on the Everest project, which aims to improve secure online transactions through efficient and mathematically-verified deployment of HTTPS;
    • HyperScale machine learning algorithms forCloud computing;
    • Cryptography and the fundamental mechanisms ofblockchain;
    • Computer Vision and its applications for mixed reality;
    • Continuing the longstanding research on the TLAsystem, supervised by Leslie Lamport, winner of theAlan Turing Award in 2014.

Promoting skills transfer and support to French businesses, targeting:

  • start-ups under the AI Factory programme, in which Inria has been involved since it was first set up. This means that the two partners will enhance their support for these start-ups so that they can take advantage of the expertise and applications developed through the research carried out by the teams at Microsoft Research and Inria;
  • digital transformation projects deployed by Microsoft for major French groups, to speed up their implementation and enable leaders in the French business world to drive forward the development of new products and applications.


Microsoft – Inria: a partnership that goes from strength to strength

Conceived in 2006, the Inria-Microsoft Research Joint Research Centre opened in January 2007. Over fifty researchers from both organisations work at the centre, together with twenty-five PhD and post-doctorate students working on the various joint projects. The high standard of research conducted at the Inria-Microsoft Research Joint Research Centre was recognised in 2013 when Leslie Lamport won the Alan Turing Award, the equivalent of a Nobel prize in Computing.

Since the centre was set up, research has been carried out in diverse areas, including medical imaging, online security, personal data protection,machine learning,Big Data and protecting world heritage. Some of the most noteworthy examples include:

  • Security, encompassing computer security thanks to a new kind of certification based on the Feit-Thompson Theorem, and online security using a new certified version of TLS protocol, which is widely used on the Net;
  • Digital imaging has, for example, enabled the start-up Iconem to create 3D models of at-risk architectural sites, including Palmyra and Pompeii, from 2D images;
  • Machine learning algorithms, which have been used to improve supervised and independent AI learning. The next step involves optimising these algorithms for widespread use on a number of Cloud-based platforms; this research will be simplified thanks to Microsoft's involvement and its Azuretechnology;
  • Medical imaging drawing on deep learning in screening and treatment for cancer and cardiac disease.

We wanted our collaborative research to be useful for French businesses, enabling them to take advantage of our advances and thus stimulate innovation and the development of new services and applications.

                                                                   François Sillion, Inria acting CEO

This new phase in the collaboration will now help speed up the process and make France a world leader in AI. Artificial intelligence is a priority for both partners, who are going to focus over 60% of their research at the centre on subjects related to AI technology. 

Microsoft and Inria have also extended their relationship to boost research and the digital transformation of French industry. As a partner in Station Fsince its launch in 2017, Microsoft, in partnership with Inria, has geared its involvement to rolling out AI through the development of the AI Factory programme. More recently, Microsoft also announced that, invited by Inria, it will be joining the PRAIRIE Institute, a centre of excellence destined to become a world leader in artificial intelligence.

"Over ten years ago, Microsoft and Inria took a chance in setting up a top-level research laboratory focused on digital technology. Many projects have been developed in that time, resulting in applications used in all our lives," said Carlo Purassanta, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft France. "We are really pleased to be renewing this partnership, thus reaffirming our commitment to research in France to boost the development of reliable artificial intelligence. This new step is in line with various initiatives that we have launched since the beginning of this year, starting with the AI Innovation programme to encourage growth in five key sectors in France."

Keywords: Microsoft research Microsoft Research - Inria Joint Centre AI Artificial intelligence Industrial partnerships