Sofia’s AI Institute Joins European Network

A unit of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) was inaugurated in Sofia on Monday. ELLIS is a pan-European AI network of excellence which focuses on fundamental science, technical innovation and societal impact. Housed in the building of the Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology (INSAIT), the new facility was opened by Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov. INSAIT thus became the first scientific institution in Eastern Europe to join ELLIS.

The Prime Minister said that INSAIT’s establishment last year and the setting up of the ELLIS Unit Sofia were the result of many years of efforts by several successive governments, which remained largely unnoticed by the public and which helped Bulgaria regain its high status in the field of science.

He described the inauguration of the ELLIS Unit as “an event of European significance” and underscored INSAIT founder Martin Vechev’s role in creating a world-class AI institute in Bulgaria.

Himself a physical chemist, the Prime Minister recalled Bulgaria’s tradition in mathematics, informatics, the natural sciences and some social sciences, which go back many decades. “There was a period when we scientists had the feeling that we were perhaps unwanted and should look somewhere else for our place in the world. Fortunately, things have changed for the better,” Denkov said.

Martin Vechev noted that AI is gaining ever greater strategic importance in the world’s economies and has the potential to transform entire sectors. Huge investments in countries outside Europe have created a risk for the continent to lag behind in the AI field. ELLIS is Europe’s response to the challenge, he added.