“We want to make the world a bit better,”says Rebecca Reisch, CEO of Cyber Valley, Europe’s leading centre for research and innovation in artificial intelligence. The Cyber Valley initiative was set up in 2016 as a collaboration between academic institutions and leading tech companies. Its members include the Max Planck Society, the universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen, the state of Baden-Württemberg and companies such as Amazon, Bosch, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The partnerships facilitate unique connections between bleeding-edge research and industrial applications of AI. Cyber Valley became an independent business in late 2021. Based in Stuttgart and Tübingen, it is a key organiser and host of the AI community, with funding from the Baden-Württemberg state government.
A key to the success of Cyber Valley is the close collaboration between science and business. Scientists, engineers and businesspeople work hand in hand to transform ideas from research into marketable products and solutions. Research is at the heart of what Cyber Valley does. “We’re really lucky to have the Max Planck Society as a founder member and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft among our partners,” Reisch says. “Fraunhofer specialises in bringing academic expertise into businesses. That’s how we can create genuine value for society.”
The innovation hub now enjoys a strong reputation not just in Europe but around the world. “Cyber Valley is where you come when you want to study AI and robotics in Germany,” Reisch says. Researchers and students from all over the world are pouring into the sites in Stuttgart and Tübingen to draw on the expertise and resources offered by this unique ecosystem. Cyber Valley has also made itself one of the world’s leading research locations for machine learning, machine vision and robotics.
“One important part of our work at Cyber Valley is to help international scientists, businesspeople and their families to settle down in Germany,” Reisch says. Cyber Valley supports people from the moment they arrive through to setting up their own startup.
The research centre sees itself as a host and networker. “It’s common for the same idea to emerge in different people’s heads and in different places. It’s our job to bring these ideas together,” Reisch explains, adding that the best way to do this is often over pizza and salad. “Once a month we host an evening where we invite everyone from our community,” she says. “It’s a chance for scientists, students, entrepreneurs and representatives of our partners to get to know one another, share ideas and discuss issues.”
ELLIS also wants to drive funding for cutting-edge research into machine learning andartificial intelligence. The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems functions as a network of leading European research labs which focus on pioneering projects and innovations. ELLIS was set up in Tübingen in 2018, in rooms belonging to Cyber Valley. “We noticed that the only way to drive forward outstanding AI research is through thriving partnerships in academia,” Reisch says. “So we decided to build stronger networks with other centres around Europe. And that’s how ELLIS came about.”Through the ELLIS institute on the Innovation Campus in Tübingen, Cyber Valley can position itself in international competition not only as a centre of scientific excellence but also as an attractive place for international cutting-edge research.
But innovations don’t happen without funds, so Cyber Valley funds research projects and new startups with money from its partners. “We have our Cyber Valley Research Fund and research projects can submit applications to that,” Reisch explains. Cyber Valley’s AI incubator also gives potential entrepreneurs access to expertise so they can transform their ideas into marketable products and services.
“I would like to see a future in which we don’t just consume things that are produced in other countries, but one in which we design the products ourselves and adapt them to our needs,” Reisch says. In her view, Germany is the perfect place for that. “We have a long tradition of successful businesspeople, centuries of strong brands which originated here,” she says.Cyber Valley wants to revive this heritage with a new generation of entrepreneurs from the highly international AI community in Cyber Valley.