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Switzerland to become global AI leader

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) are launching the Swiss AI Initiative. The aim here is to ensure that globally pioneering roles in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are not the sole domain of tech firms, while also affording Switzerland a degree of digital sovereignty with the help of the new Alps supercomputer.

The Alps supercomputer in Lugano shall provide the backbone for the Swiss AI initiative of the two Federal Institutes of Technology. Image credit: CSCS
The Alps supercomputer in Lugano shall provide the backbone for the Swiss AI initiative of the two Federal Institutes of Technology. Image credit: CSCS

The Swiss AI Initiative from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) will seek to position Switzerland as a world-leading hub for transparent and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI). The requisite infrastructure to achieve this comes in the form of the new Alps supercomputer. In the spring of 2024, it will begin operations at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS), which ETH Zurich operates out of Lugano in the canton of Ticino.

As detailed in a press release issued by ETH Zurich, access to this supercomputer enables Switzerland to keep pace with the largest tech firms in the world in terms of computing power. “Science must assume a pioneering role in such a forward-​looking field, rather than leaving it to a few multinational corporations. Only in this way can we guarantee independent research and Switzerland’s digital sovereignty”, as Christan Wolfrum, ETH Vice President for Research, explains in the press release.

The computing capacity of Alps will be used to develop new, industry-specific Open Source base models on the basis of transparent large language models for generative AI. These could then be used in fields such as robotics, medical diagnostics and climate sciences, for example, and should additionally “be transferable as openly and directly as possible to society and industry”. SMEs, start-ups and public services all stand to directly benefit from this.

The initiative aims to pool the expertise of around a dozen Swiss universities, technical universities and research institutions. According to the press release, a total of 75 professors have already been brought on board. 

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