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Google Donates USD 1 Mln for PhD Fellowships at Bulgarian Institute INSAIT

Google is awarding USD 1 million for fellowships to young scientists working at Bulgaria’s Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology (INSAIT) with the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. The contribution was announced by Google DeepMind Research Vice President Slav Petrov, Prof. Martin Vechev who chairs the INSAIT Supervisory Board, Director of Google Cloud for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia Boris Georgiev, and caretaker Education and Science Minister Galin Tzokov at a ceremony in Sofia on Thursday. This is one of Google’s largest donations in the world for 2024.

The event is the first one of its kind for Google in Bulgaria. It gathered experts, business leaders and innovators who discussed the latest trends in cloud technologies, and the effective use of artificial intelligence technologies in education, public sector and business.

Attending the forum, Minister Tzokov said that what is happening today is proof that a world-class scientific product can and is being created in Bulgaria. “What INSAIT has achieved in such a short time is impressive, and that is why the State will continue to consistently support the institute with the Sofia University, while these additional funds are an opportunity to retain the best Bulgarian talents in the field of science and give them the opportunity to develop and work at a world-class level in their home – Bulgaria,” he addressed the event. Tzokov said that over 200,000 Bulgarian school students use Google’s cloud computing technologies, and the company’s artificial intelligence tools in the field of education save hours of administrative work for principals and teachers.

Google Cloud Director Georgiev underscored that Google also supported INSAIT with USD 250,000 for PhD scholarships at the time of the opening of the institute in April 2022. “The results achieved by INSAIT for this period are unique and give us the confidence to increase scholarships funding nearly four times, bringing it to USD 1 million,” Georgiev noted. The decision to increase funding was made at the highest level at Google after reviewing INSAIT’s results for the past two years, he added.

The donation will allow doctoral students to work with research supervisors from INSAIT and Google Research on topics of mutual interest. The funding will help strengthen INSAIT’s focus in key artificial intelligence areas, such as large-scale language models, computer vision, natural language processing, machine learning, among others. Furthermore, Google is also providing INSAIT with exclusive and free access to its specific high-performance computing power (latest-generation tensor processors) worth USD 1 million. INSAIT will be one of the few scientific organisations in the world to be able to use Google’s specialised computing power to create generative artificial intelligence. The resource provided by Google to INSAIT has an initial value of USD 2 million and could reach tens of millions of dollars per year.

INSAIT Supervisory Board Chair Vechev emphasized that the institute highly values Google’s trust. “This additional support means a lot to us as it confirms that INSAIT is on the right track in building a world-class institute for artificial intelligence and informatics. INSAIT continues to grow at a rapid pace and we look forward to expanding and strengthening our partnership with Google in the coming years,” Vechev added.

Google DeepMind Research Vice President Petrov said that Eastern Europe has incredible potential to contribute to artificial intelligence development, and yet the region is significantly underrepresented in this field. “We hope that this collaboration will not only serve to build a more diverse and inclusive global ecosystem for AI, but also enable new breakthroughs in the field that will directly benefit the region,” he addressed the event.

In just two years, INSAIT has made significant progress establishing itself as a world-class institute. Dozens of research papers have been published at leading conferences in the field of AI, including NeurIPS, CVPR, ICCV, ICLR, AISTATS, among others. INSAIT has also managed to attract leading researchers from Bulgaria and around the world. The institute also became Eastern Europe’s first institution to join the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), considered the most prestigious European network for AI research.