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Government backs research into digital innovation

The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, ADAPT, the global centre of excellence for digital content and media innovation, was launched on Wednesday by Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English, with the aim of developing the next generation of digital content technologies.

The launch is the result of a €50 million (US$54 million) expansion in size and scope of the existing Centre for Next Generation Localisation. It is funded by the Irish government through the Science Foundation Ireland to the tune of €24 million, with an additional €26 million leveraged from 19 industry partners.

It is one of 12 centres established by Science Foundation Ireland, which together represent the largest ever state and industry co-funded research investment in Ireland, according to Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government.

ADAPT is led out of Trinity College Dublin and headed up by Professor Vincent Wade, professor of computer science at Trinity College Dublin. It combines the expertise of researchers at four universities – Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Dublin, and Dublin Institute of Technology – with that of its industry partners to develop digital content innovations.

Two hundred postgraduate students will be trained over the next six years.

The new investment is also expected to foster the development of spin-out companies and the creation of 300 high-skill jobs.

At the launch, the minister said: “This funding demonstrates the continued commitment shown by government to establish Ireland as a leading location for next generation digital content technologies. It will assist in powering an innovative and enterprising economy and help to create high-tech, high-quality employment opportunities in the future.”

Professor Ferguson said the centre’s expansion will help lead the way in Ireland’s global intelligent content revolution.

Director of ADAPT, Professor Wade, said ADAPT is based on 10 years of research developed in different universities and aims to bring together all the top people in the country on digital content technology.

He said the centre provides a partnership between academia and industry in the field of research and development in areas such as the analysis and extraction of knowledge from information, the curation and delivery of knowledge to suit personal needs, and the translation using machine learning of information across language to break down barriers to information exchange and reach, and the use of multi-modal interaction with information using speech and graphics as well as text.

“For example if you need to write an article for a magazine or do a job interview, the technology can transform the content and deliver it in different ways, whether as speech, virtual reality or mentored reality, where you superimpose digital into the real world,” said Wade.

“There is no other centre in the world looking at the full life-cycle of content, how we extract knowledge and how we deliver it in a new way.”

The centre is expected to revolutionise how customers and companies engage with each other digitally. Leading-edge innovations will enable delivery of the right content to the right customer, at the right time, in their preferred format and language, and on the device of their choice.

It will have uses in games, ICT, publishing, commerce, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, medicine and education, to name a few sectors the researchers are already working with. One day the technology will be able to mine information from customers as they use social media and provide information that will match the customers' needs and interests.

For instance, ADAPT experts have developed a personalised recommendation platform that can learn what each consumer is interested in and serve them with recommendations of articles and products that they will find relevant and interesting.

Key challenge

The objective is to “enhance people’s lives by helping to analyse, personalise and deliver digital content more effectively for businesses and individuals”, Science Foundation Ireland says.

One of the key challenges of our time, Wade said, is that enterprises and individuals are being “overwhelmed by the volume, variety and fragmented delivery of digital content across apps, mobile devices and the vast array of media streams”.

ADAPT researchers have created a service that cuts content consumption time and promotes user engagement “on the move” by generating concise overviews of text content on audio in the relevant language.

The centre already works with a range of industry partners from large multinationals such as Intel, PayPal, and Huawei, to SMEs such as Air Learning, Iconic and Xanadu. It will also seek opportunities to work with other industry partners to further diversify and strengthen its research, and identify new uses for the technologies under development.

The 12- centre Science Foundation Ireland programme is supporting an investment of €355 million from Science Foundation Ireland matched by €190 million from industry in 12 world-class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres of excellence and scale, according to Ferguson.
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