Advances in AI and its application in Africa has the potential to drive innovation in industry and shape the societal landscape of tomorrow.

While Africa was largely absent from the Internet Revolution there is now a growing realisation of the importance of technology in building societal prosperity.

With growth in learning and communication, and with several strong and internationally competitive universities there is substantial interest in AI from faculty and students in the region.

Yet the region has not expanded fast enough to fully realise the opportunities presented and there is now a rapidly growing need for talent, infrastructure and funding to support innovation. To move beyond the hype and be competitive with the substantial accumulation of resources in North America and more recently in China, requires efforts on a magnitude far greater than any previous spanning academia and industry.

This has led to the formation of the Cirrus, to bring about a step change in the research and application of AI in the region.

ABOUT

At a high level the comprehensive plan for Cirrus includes the creation of:

A COOPERATION PROGRAM

Supporting interdisciplinary cooperation spanning academia and industry around the world, boosting the application of AI technologies and ensuring the transformative potential benefits the region.

STATE-OF-ART COMPUTING INFRASTRUCTURE

Supported by teams of hardware, software, machine learning and data engineers. Bringing together engineering teams, researchers, computing infrastructure and extensive scientific instrumentation to enable a step change in research efforts of academia and industry in the region.

OPEN LEARNING

Ensuring inclusive participation, the dissemination of knowledge and ideas and the development of the next generation of African AI researchers.

THE CIRRUS FOUNDRY & CIRRUS FOUNDRY FUND

To bridge the “Valley of Death” and overcome the challenge of turning a start-up idea or scientific research into large-scale commercial application.

MISSION

STRATEGIC

To be a part of the future of AI, to design it.

ATTRACT

Attract thinkers who dream of and apply new AI approaches that improve the world around them for social and economic benefit.

INSPIRE

A centre of excellence in AI, inspiring and educating future generations through interdisciplinary research and education efforts spanning research to technology deployment, supporting open publication and open innovation.

REAL WORLD COLLABORATION

Create a collaborative university and industry platform supporting an ecosystem that fosters innovation and entrepreneurialism. Through sharing infrastructure and human resources, providing funding and a start-up foundry, to reduce the latency between research and the deployment of real-world applications.

GOVERNANCE

Governance is the foundation of Cirrus permeating and directing every aspect of the operation.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Cirrus will be governed by a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will be established by the founding members of Cirrus.

ADVISORY COUNCIL

In addition to the Board of Directors Cirrus will also have an Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will contribute input to the Cirrus strategy, research areas and research projects. The Advisory Council will represent the diversity of collaborative efforts and the Cirrus approach to creating a sustainable ecosystem in which the mission of Cirrus can be fulfilled. The Advisory Council will therefore be composed of persons experienced in five areas, namely; entrepreneurship, financing, coaching, academic bridges and infrastructure builders.

OPEN INNOVATION

It is the intent that collaborative work originating from Cirrus be placed in the public domain and that contracts involving exclusivity constraints be avoided in general. The intent of this policy is to ensure that research is done across Cirrus, in a fully collaborative manner, and not restricted to individuals, groups or corporate entities.

ACADEMIC COOPERATION

RESIDENCY
PROGRAM

The 12-month program will be open to undergrad, masters and PhD students. Residents will have the opportunity to be mentored by scientists and engineers from the various teams within Cirrus and will work on real-world machine learning problems and applications. In addition, residents will have the opportunity to collaborate and partner with various research and applied groups within Cirrus.

PHD INTERNSHIP
PROGRAM

Participants in this 5-month program will commence the process of bridging the Valley of Death, by integrating new fundamental research into applied projects. Participants will have the opportunity to identify interesting real-world problems to research.

POSTDOC
PROGRAM

The Postdoc program will provide the opportunity for participants to engage in cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research, both theoretical and applied, providing the necessary expertise prior to moving into industry or a faculty position. The program will span a minimum of a 12-month period and participants will have the opportunity to have their research outcomes realised in new products and services through the Cirrus FOUNDRY.

ASSISTANTSHIP
PROGRAM

The duration of the assistantship program will vary depending on the requirement. It is designed to combine specialized technical skills with research experience in order to enable innovative research. The Assistantship program will therefore provide the capability to support projects where specialized analysis, visualization, or development skills will enhance a project or are required for its success.

OPEN LEARNING

Material originating from Cirrus and used in the teaching of Cirrus programs will be made freely available, including through the web. This approach will ensure:

open dissemination of knowledge and ideas pertaining to AI

enable prospective students to fully ensure the quality of the programs are kept to the highest standard as they are open to benchmarking

ensure the quality of the programs are kept to the highest standard as they are open to benchmarking

SALONS & TEA TIME SESSIONS

Salons and tea time sessions are open gatherings for the exchange of knowledge and ideas intended to facilitate the growth and development of a vibrant AI community.

SALONS

Inspired by the enlightenment-era salons, the monthly Cirrus salon will provide an opportunity to bring all Cirrus participants and stakeholders together in a face-to-face exchange of ideas through conversation, devoid of modern entanglements such as PowerPoint presentations and time constraints. The salon will be open to all Cirrus persons and the public. Registration will be required for public participants.

TEA TIME SESSIONS

Tea time sessions will be organised on a weekly basis as talks / presentations / show-and-tell on various topics pertaining to AI. These sessions will be presented by Cirrus persons or visitors to Cirrus. All tea time sessions will be open to the public through registration and all material from the session will be made available online.

RESEARCH TO COMMUNICATION

The Research to Communication (RtC) program is a program to assist researchers in ensuring research is clearly and concisely conveyed to a broad audience. Such communication skill is of vital importance and Cirrus will therefore offer programs to researchers that provide assistance and coaching to enhance their presentation skills in communicating the results of their work.

AFFILIATE PROGRAM

The Affiliate program enables corporate entities to interact with Cirrus and take advantage of a variety programs and activities.

Affiliates provide R 500,000 ZAR per year with an expected three-year commitment. These funds are used to support the operations and programs of Cirrus.

AFFILIATE BENEFITS

Website and publication exposure

Annual orientation covering all Cirrus resources, activities and programs

Insight into Cirrus research and student projects and ability to engage with faculty and students

Invitations to lectures and workshops

Direct interaction with students and student groups for recruitment and ability to host recruiting events such as tech talks and roundtables

Connection to other university recruiting focused departments

Discounts on professional education including Summer and Winter programs

Engagement with Cirrus FOUNDRY start-ups providing insight into transformative new technologies and business opportunities

Networking events and the opportunity to connect with leaders from other top universities, companies and start-ups from around the world

Ability of the affiliate to leverage the sponsorship in terms of publicity

PARTNER PROGRAM

The Partner program supports close engagement with a small number of corporate entities and is focused on active research collaboration and on participation on the Advisory Council.

Partners provide R 900,000 ZAR or more per year with an expected three-year commitment. These funds are used to support the operations and programs of Cirrus including research activities of faculty and students

PARTNER BENEFITS

Partnerships under the Partner program are tailored to ensure mutual benefit and include all of the benefits of the

Affiliate program, with the addition of:

Insight and access to Cirrus research and technology prior to public release

Access to the Pitch, a networking event where the Cirrus FOUNDRY start-ups present to Partners

Workshops to explore joint research opportunities

Hosting of Partner data for research projects including training systems and deriving insights

Targeted support for student researchers and research projects

Participation in seed-funded projects

Placement for a visiting fellow

Seat on Advisory Council

Company day at Cirrus

CO-DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

A collaborative program spanning academia and industry focusing on the co-development of Cirrus related infrastructure. This includes collaboration with hardware and software providers across three primary areas

MEASUREMENT
& CONTROL

This includes developing accurate measurement and monitoring capabilities of Cirrus infrastructure to in order to facilitate the development of solutions to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency for example.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: HARDWARE

The design and optimisation of next generation of hardware and related infrastructure to improve performance and energy efficiency.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: SOFTWARE

The development of tools, techniques and architectures to support the optimisation of applications to improve performance and energy efficiency.

LINKS

ELLIS

The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), an initiative involving the very best European academics working together with researchers from industry.

https://ellis.eu >

CLAIRE

The Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe (CLAIRE), an initiative to increase efforts on strengthening research, innovation and collaboration on AI in Europe.

https://claire-ai.org >

NEWS

New research initiative will be announced at this year's AI Expo Africa >

CONTACT

We welcome participation and encourage you to reach out to Dr Roy Forbes at Wits University, who is coordinating engagements.

DR ROY FORBES
Wits University

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