prg.ai newsletter #18: Investments, exits, and more success stories
What a month for the local AI scene! Three of prg.ai's industrial members secured staggering investments, we welcomed new prg.ai Minor graduates, and our calendar is full of exciting opportunities, including Ment2Grow or European Health Hackathon.
🏡 What’s new at prg.ai
New generation of prg.ai Minor graduates
On 5 October, we celebrated new graduates of the prg.ai Minor programme, our flagship educational project that brings together the best AI classes across four different faculties at CTU a CUNI. In the historical interiors of the Old Town Hall, we welcomed Prague’s Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, Councillor Vít Šimral, as well as representatives of the two participating universities.
Yet, the graduates were true stars of the afternoon, as they received their diplomas to recognise the unique academic insights they gained while learning about AI, from robotics to ethics. We can’t wait to see what our graduates will get up to, and we wish them all the best in their journey through academia or industry. The future of Czech AI is in great hands — we dare to say — and more is yet to come.
As the new academic year gains momentum once again, we do not forget about current Minor students either: to enrich their academic experience and broaden their horizons, we organise informal talks with academics and industry specialists about fields that particularly interest them. The latest one took place at the Paralelní Polis in Prague and hosted Tomáš Mikolov, Czech Republic’s most cited scientist and senior researcher at CTU.
What about open data in healthcare?
In October, we also organised an invite-only event about the timely topic of open data in healthcare with a biotech-focused lawyer Barbora Dubanská and Adam Svobodník from CZECRIN, all as part of our long-term talk series HumanAIse. Experts from various ministries, insurance companies, hospitals, universities, and biotech firms gathered to discuss the intricacies of using data in research and patient care optimisation. A write-up from the event is coming out soon, so stay tuned.
From the Golem to Golemio with Jaromír Beránek
Will artificial intelligence replace civil servants? That time is still a long way off, but data and technology can make life in cities more pleasant if used properly, says Jaromír Beránek, Prague councillor and chair of the Committee on IT Smart City. In his interview for prg.ai, he details the rationale of smart city policies, Prague’s innovative potential, and the promising future of artificial intelligence’s role in urban governance.
🎭 Events we’re excited about
Interested in what the following month brings in terms of discussions, conferences, and networking opportunities? Alongside our monthly newsletter digest, we also curate a dedicated Google calendar. By following it, you will never miss an event approved by prg.ai.
3 Nov, European AI Alliance: Harnessing AI’s power for health
From monitoring the impact of policies on population health and technologies that allow people to manage their healthy habits to mobile health and wearables, the power of computing platforms, rapidly developing software, and increasing connectivity improve our lives. How can we harness the power of AI for public health and reduce the risks related to the use of new technologies? Register to join the international discussion.
4-5 Nov, CyberSec&AI Connected
This year’s long-anticipated instalment of the virtual event will once again connect global AI academics, specialists, and tech professionals from around the world to examine critical issues of artificial intelligence for privacy and cybersecurity. Students and scholars can benefit from a handsome discount on the entrance fee, so don’t miss it.
5 Nov, Open Data Conference 2021
Do you work with open data, know of a fascinating open-data use case, or publish open data sets ready for analysis? The upcoming Open Data Conference is the place to rub elbows with the Czech Republic’s most involved data experts and explore the potential of newly available datasets.
9-10 Nov, DigiEduHack 2021: Smartphone, a school in a pocket
Everybody owns a smartphone these days — pupils, teachers, and parents. How can we ensure that these witty machines can facilitate more than just mobile games and endless social media scrolling? The upcoming hackathon is looking to develop a solution, prototype, or product, which is realistic, inclusive, and uniquely suited to the educational environment.
11 Nov, Future Port Youth
Future Port Youth is a unique, Europe-wide hybrid event for students of all fields focused on hot topics of tomorrow, allowing young people to kickstart their interest in innovative tools and concepts so they can build a better world for everyone. Topics covered include the future of mobility, AI, sustainability, and fashion. Don’t miss the opportunity to involve your school; the registration is still open.
11 Nov, AI4Media workshop on the European AI-on-demand platform
CIIRC CTU would like to invite you to this AI4Media workshop, which allows a better understanding of the technical and non-technical facets of the AI-on-demand platform. The objective is to highlight the platform’s role as the central link of European AI networks and encourage everyone interested in AI to join.
19-21 Nov, European Healthcare Hackathon 2021
The European Healthcare Hackathon invites individuals and small teams to develop healthcare-related innovations at Prague’s IKEM, Europe’s biggest transplant centre. Under the watchful eyes of the Czech Ministry of Health, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, and with the expert guidance from industry leaders from IKEM, AstraZeneca, VZP, or Edwards Lifesciences, participants will have a chance to compete for up to 200,000 CZK in prizes and a chance to see their idea implemented in medical practice. Hurry up — the application deadline is on 3 November.
23 Nov, Innovation Heroes Vol. II – Innovation in Prague
What is our city doing to keep up with the hectic pace of the 21st century? Join prg.ai’s director Lenka Kučerová, prg.ai Executive board member Jaromír Beránek, and distinguished guests from Operator ICT and the Prague Innovation Institute for a discussion about the most exciting innovations underway in the Czech metropolis.
26-27 Nov, Cyberspace Conference
Organised by the Institute of Law and Technology at the Faculty of Law in cooperation with the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno and the European Academy of ICT Law in Vienna, the Cyberspace conference offers an intersection of technology, law, and psychology. Join for insightful academic discussions on various topics as well as special workshops organised exclusively for this edition.
27 Nov, AI4EU Cafe: Who pays the bill when an AI-system causes damage?
“Who can and should be held liable when an AI-powered system causes damage?” That is a recurring question in several supranational policy documents. In this seminar, dr. Jan De Bruyne from the University of Gent will give an overview of recent initiatives regarding liability, discuss specific legal challenges related to tort and product liability, and provide some normative proposals that can be relied upon by policy-makers.
👏 Members’ news that makes us proud
Hold onto your hats — we’ve got great news to share! Rossum, one of our industry members, has secured $100 million in its series A funding, one of the largest ever among Eastern European companies. With their AI expertise, Rossum is creating a universal document gateway designed to help the corporate world move faster, internally and cross-company. Their innovative work caught the eye of major investment funds by the likes of General Catalyst and secured them such a head-spinning launchpad for future endeavours, including product development, business expansion, and new partnerships. Plans have been laid out for a new research centre in cooperation with Prague’s universities, which will undoubtedly fuel the entire Prague AI ecosystem.
Tackling document challenges has not only secured them direct investment, it has also established Rossum as a star rising on the radar of multiple Fortune 500 companies. Their innovative collaboration on automated processing of e-mail orders has recently scored them the Open Bosch Award for the world’s best open innovation projects, integrating them into the Bosch start-up network.
And that’s not the only notable investment to celebrate this month. After Rossum, another Czech AI startup and prg.ai industry member has come forward with an important announcement. This time, it’s Resistant AI, which raised $16.6 million to take its SaaS-based security model to the global stage. Powered by AI and ML, the company’s system protects financial services from manipulation, fraud, and financial crime. In addition, it safeguards customer onboarding, credit scoring, AML, and existing fraud detection systems from emerging attacks. Resistant AI’s solution has already been adopted by banks, insurers, and fintech companies worldwide. However, with concerns about security and defrauding rising globally, the Czech AI trailblazer will be able to offer its tools to an even wider audience with this substantial funding.
But sometimes, the good news just keeps on coming. Another of our industrial members, a specialist on AI-powered business solutions named DataSentics, has been acquired by Atos. The French group promises to launch DataSentics into global significance and ensure that its data engineering and machine learning solutions get the chance to serve firms worldwide. The Prague-based team is already excited about working on supercharging diverse business models around the world, and we can’t wait, either!
Aside from stunning successes in the business world, Czech artificial intelligence innovation is also making strides in much more inconspicuous ways. In collaboration with Meteopress, scientists from the CTU are training artificial intelligence to improve weather forecasting. The resulting predictions are faster, simpler, and already 15% more accurate when compared to conventional methods.
Furthermore, an article titled Viewing Graph Solvability via Cycle Consistency, which CIIRC’s Tomáš Pajdla co-authored, was praised at the 2021 International Conference on Computer Vision in Montreal and even received the Marr Award for the best submission. Such an award constitutes an important academic distinction, as the ICCV belongs to the most prestigious academic events in the field of computer vision, receiving 6,000 submissions annually and admitting little over 1,600 every year. Tomáš Pajdla himself ranks among Czech Republic’s top three computer scientists.
Meanwhile, at the 15th AMC Conference on Recommender Systems in Amsterdam, FIT CTU’s Vojtěch Vančura presented his insights into sequential recommendation. The article he published is freely accessible, making it a great resource for those interested in the nitty-gritty of basket predictions.
And other academics didn’t let October slip by either: Josef Urban and Tomáš Mikolov gave a keynote at the prestigious Artificial General Intelligence Conference organised in San Francisco. As noted by Josef Urban himself, CTU may be the only institution providing not one but two keynote speakers to an event of such magnitude.
At CTU’s CIIRC, a new department dedicated to AI innovation saw the light of day. It will be led by Josef Urban himself and split into four independent research groups focusing on distinct research areas. On the whole, the new centre strives to strengthen foundational research outputs, which are essential for robust, practical innovation and application of algorithms to new problems.
A Matfyz-coordinated research project, which forms part of the prestigious Marie-Skłodowska Curie programme funded by the EU, is celebrating its first anniversary. The PRIME or Predictive Rendering in Industrial Manufacturing brings together a multi-national consortium to work on image synthesis that is so accurate that it can be used for reliable prediction of object appearance — and is, to no surprise, coordinated by experts from Charles University.
Artificial intelligence and algorithmic game theory’s intersection with the social sciences was discussed at an event organised by the Learned Society of the Czech Republic. The unique occasion brought together five leading experts active in some of the most notable computer science companies and institutions, from CTU to DeepMind or Stanford University, who discussed social impacts associated with the widespread use of various algorithms. In case you missed the event, you can catch a recording on YouTube. Josef Holý of Semantic Visions also discussed the overwhelming reign of algorithms in his recent seminar titled Algocracy, Ethics & Society. To explore the power algorithms yield over our public and private experiences, you can watch a recording of the talk here.
📍 From the local AI scene
UltimateSuite’s €10 million valuation
With Tensor Ventures as its lead investor, the Prague-based software company is pioneering the up-and-coming field of task mining for back-office management and business process analytics. While the pre-seed round is not yet disclosed, it enabled the company to reach a €10 million valuation. With it, UltimateSuite aims to build an international management infrastructure and define the task mining segment.
SentinelOne is moving in
American software startup SentinelOne has opened its new innovation hub in Prague, investing over a billion Czech crowns into what stands to become its main European engineering centre. Over the next three years, it plans to employ over 300 cybersecurity experts and tap the exceptional expertise of Czech technical universities.
Czech funds help call centres connect
The most widely used application for speech analysis, predominantly used in call centres to increase employee’s productivity, has focused mainly on English — at least until now. Czech investors are supporting Latvian Oxus.AI on its journey to make sure their product facilitates a greater linguistic diversity thanks to keyword spotting algorithms. Depo Ventures are chipping in 600,000 euros toward the endeavour.
📰 Stuff that interests us
- Jadrná věda: Privacy vs Artificial Intelligence with prg.ai’s Julie Kovaříková and Pavel Juruš (interview, in Czech) — a shorter and freely available version is also on YouTube
- Making waves in construction’s digital renaissance (article)
- Our research institutions still lack international staff, claims Michal Macek (article, in Czech)
- Scientists’ Night 2021 — Time in a computer (lecture, in Czech)
- DeepMind: Opening up a physics simulator for robotics (article)
- AI can see through you: CEOs’ language under machine microscope (article)
🧩 ML/AI sources we recommend
The State of AI Report analyses the most interesting developments in AI over the past year: it discusses the latest topics and their implications for the future, including research, talent, industry, or politics. Across record investments into AI startups, an emerging AI army race, and nationalisation of large language models, 2021 has been a notable year for the field — and this report summarises it for you in a light form.
A-Star Talks: Tomáš Mikolov and Daniel Haupt on Facebook, a star career, and machine learning
From Brno’s VUT to star Silicon Valley employers by the likes of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, Tomáš Mikolov has been there and done that when it comes to machine learning innovation. In this podcast episode, he talks about his experience in academic and private research, HR tech, and starting out in the (American) job market. In case you speak Czech, you can explore Tomáš’ insights further by checking out this article about his international experience and decision to return to the homeland.
Machine Learning Blogs – Tutoriály OpenDataScience.com
Populated primarily by the Open Data Science Conference community, this platform collects bite-sized blog articles, guides, and tutorials on diverse topics related to data science and machine learning. A worthy source to keep an eye on!
📢 Community calls
Launch your startup with Ment2Grow
If you have a great business idea, Ment2Grow shouldn’t pass you by: thanks to its wide network of partners and senior mentors, this mentorship programme helps startup founders find the right market fit and connect their companies with clients, partners, and investors. It also allows corporates and their leaders to find new opportunities by connecting to innovative solutions that startup companies generate. And it’s absolutely suitable for AI companies: DataSentics, Big Terra, or Umotional successfully participated in the past. Do not hesitate to apply — the deadline is coming up on 8 November.
Explore the world of healthcare innovation
Suppose you’re a student, a recent graduate, or a startup representative. In that case, do not miss your chance to join the EIT Health Innovation Days (iDays), which could be an excellent opportunity to break into the field of healthcare innovation, get well-acquainted with principles of design thinking, and brush the dust off your presentation skills. You’ll have the chance to work on your ideas with renowned experts and possibly represent Czech talent in the EU finals later this year. More information is available on the Facebook event page.
First step toward protecting your IP
Has the possibility of IP theft been on your mind recently — and do you even understand its practical dangers? Either way, we kindly ask you to fill out a short questionnaire about individuals’ or legal entities’ concerns about possible IP theft and whether there is something prg.ai can do to address these issues in cooperation with other organisations, such as the US Embassy.
💼 Open job positions
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AI is attracting companies, prg.ai intends to meet demand with new partnership concept
- press release - The artificial intelligence platform prg.ai is opening up to companies outside the industry. The consulting company EY, the law firm KROUPAHELÁN and the pharmaceutical manufacturer Zentiva became partners of prg.ai in early 2023. What unites these at-first-glance different partners is that even if they don't have a business built around AI, they are best suited to be leaders in their industries in its adoption and use.