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Investing 35 million in green and democratic AI technology

Sparebanken Sør and UiA are collaborating to develop a more equitable and environmentally friendly alternative to the artificial intelligence technology used by major tech companies. Leading this initiative is Professor Ole-Christoffer Granmo from UiA, who was named the Norwegian AI researcher of the decade.

The image shows professor Ole-Christoffer Granmo, rector Sunniva Whittaker og and marketing director of Sparebanken Sør Eva Kvelland.
From left: Professor Ole-Christoffer Granmo, rector Sunniva Whittaker and marketing director of Sparebanken Sør Eva Kvelland. Photo: UiA

Many have recognised the potential of artificial intelligence and are using various services to boost efficiency in work and creative processes.

However, a common feature of most available services is their significant power consumption, high costs, potential biases, and the fact that these technologies are controlled by the same large corporations that dominate our digital landscape.

“There are considerable challenges with the most popular tools of today,” says professor in artificial intelligence, Ole-Christoffer Granmo.

“Now, we aim to build upon a technology pioneered at UiA, which has gained recognition through research published in all the major technology journals worldwide. In short, we aspire to develop green and democratic artificial intelligence that we genuinely understand how it works, in contrast to current alternatives,” the professor explains.

26.9 million from the bank

To further the development of this technology, two essential components are needed: computational power and researchers.

Sparebanken Sør recognises the value of this endeavour and will provide funding for the establishment of a total of six supercomputers and the support of two research fellows. UiA will cover the cost of two of the computers, while the bank will contribute the remainder.

“Sparebanken Sør aims to contribute to the development of the region, and the university is an important partner in this regard. It is especially gratifying when we can elevate local research of international calibre, where both technology and environmental considerations hold sway. This is an investment and effort of which the entire region can take pride,” asserts Eva Kvelland, Group Director for Marketing and Communications in Sparebanken Sør.

“This is a substantial gift from Sparebanken Sør that goes directly into active research within our already robust artificial intelligence environment. We thank the bank and applaud them for recognising the societal import of this initiative,” says UiA Rector Sunniva Whittaker.

Free, open and comprehensible

According to Professor Granmo, the supercomputers set to be procured are among the most potent available. Two out of six machines are already in place.

“We will have a computing capacity of 208 petaFlops. In simpler terms, it’s an incredibly powerful computational capability that provides unique opportunities for realising our objectives. The development is dominated by giant American and Chinese companies. Norway and the rest of Europe lag far behind, and we need computational power to keep pace,” explains Professor Granmo.

The goals for this five-year initiative are:

-          Establishing UiA and Southern Norway as pioneers in democratic artificial intelligence.

-          Developing democratic AI technology for the healthcare sector in partnership with the Hospital of Southern Norway.

-          Creating a free, open, comprehensible, environmentally friendly, and accessible alternative to the artificial intelligence offered by tech giants.

-          Advancing democratic AI technology across UiA’s academic disciplines.

About the Tsetlin Machine

Granmo heads UiA’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR), which hosts a total of 34 researchers, including 20 research fellows and approximately 60 master’s students.

In 2022, Granmo was named AI researcher of the decade by the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Consortium (NORA) for his pioneering work on the cornerstone of green and democratic artificial intelligence – the Tsetlin Machine.

This machine is currently on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in Oslo and has become one of the most popular exhibits there.

Researchers from various countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Romania, India, China, the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Iran, and the UK, are currently researching this technology. And in 2022, they gathered for a conference on the Tsetlin Machine in Grimstad, where Sparebanken Sør sponsored an award for the best paper.