4.5 million euros in EU funding for Saarbrücken


image: Isabel Valera, computer science teacher
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Credit: SIC / Philipp Zapf-Schramm

This year, three computer scientists from Saarbrücken received an “ERC Starting Grant” from the European Research Council. This prize, endowed with 1.5 million euros each, is one of the most prestigious research grants in the world. It is intended to support particularly promising research by young scientists. The awarded projects are in the fields of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

Three of the four ERC start-up grants awarded to IT specialists in Germany are this time going to Saarbrücken. The winners raised a total of 4.5 million euros in third-party funds for IT Saarbrücken. The different projects at a glance:

Isabel Valera has been Professor of Computer Science at the University of Saarland since April 2020. Her research focuses on machine learning, more specifically fair algorithms. In the EU-funded “Society-Aware Machine Learning” project, Isabel Valera wants to develop a whole new methodological approach for the development of machine learning algorithms. Its new approach is to take into account the interests of all parties concerned by an algorithm and thus ultimately contribute to machine learning applications that are fairer and accepted by society. “Today, artificial intelligence is already used in many sensitive areas: in granting loans, to fill jobs, or to display personalized advertisements on the Internet. that take into account the interests of all parties involved, ”says Isabel Valera, AI expert.

Dr Adish Singla has been a full professor at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Saarbrücken since 2017. His research focuses on “machine education”, a sub-field of artificial intelligence. In his ERC project “Machine-Assisted Teaching for Open-Ended Problem Solving: Foundations and Applications”, Adish Singla wants to develop an AI-based tutoring system for open learning areas such as programming, concept puzzles and virtual reality environments. The system will automatically adapt to a learner’s level of knowledge and provide feedback based on their needs, design exercises and suggestions for consolidation tasks. “The best way to learn something new is to be individually supervised by a teacher in the process. But since it is not possible to provide every learner with a personal and human teacher, computer tutoring methods are a promising solution. In addition to providing a solid foundation, we will demonstrate the performance of our techniques in a wide range of educational applications in open fields, ”says Adish Singla.

The third of the winners is Dr Nico Döttling. The encryption expert has been a researcher at the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security since 2018, focusing on public key encryption and secure multi-party calculations. He is funded by the EU for his research on “laconic cryptography”. In the LACONIC project, he wishes to develop new efficient cryptographic methods and techniques in terms of computation that guarantee security during computation on very large amounts of data. His research could, for example, pave the way for the secure use of machine learning methods in medicine.

The first two projects are located at the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC). In recent years, a total of 27 European Research Council grants (including 13 seed grants) have been awarded to Saarbrücken. The Saar IT campus offers a diverse AI research landscape: in addition to the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), many scientists from the University of Saarland and the Max Planck Institutes for IT and software systems, also located on campus, work on topics related to artificial intelligence. In addition, the two internationally renowned AI initiatives CLAIRE (Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe) and ELLIS (European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems), which last year received the German AI Award, are also active on campus.

Further information : https://erc.europa.eu/news/StG-recipients-2021

Questions can be directed to:

Professor Dr. Isabel Valera
[email protected]

+49 (0) 681 302-57328


Dr Adish Singla
[email protected]

+49 681 9303 8201


Dr Nico Döttling
[email protected]
+49 681 302 70783 (Unternehmenskommunikation CISPA)


Context of the Saar IT campus:
900 scientists (including 400 doctoral students) and around 2,100 students from over 80 countries make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading IT sites in Germany and Europe. Five world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for “Multimodal Computing and Interaction “as well as the University of Saarland with three departments and 24 study programs covering the entire spectrum of IT.

Philipp Zapf Schramm
IT Competence Center
Saar IT campus
Telephone: +49 681 302-70741
Email: [email protected]

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