Future-proofing Hessen's start-up ecosystem and SMEs

Opening of Germany's only AI innovation lab at GSI Helmholtzzentrum in Darmstadt provides companies with application-oriented AI computing infrastructure and AI expertise


This press release was issued by Hessen's Ministry of Digital Strategy and Innovation.

Hessen's Digital Minister Prof. Dr. Kristina Sinemus today inaugurated the AI Innovation Lab at the Green IT Cube of the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt. Funded with approximately 10 million euros, the project serves as a focal point for companies, startups and academia with the central goal of providing access to an AI supercomputing infrastructure.

In the lab, AI systems and applications can be developed, trained, tested and evaluated. Users from research and application not only receive assistance in the design and implementation of AI projects and access to the infrastructure, but also support in the adaptation of alternative hardware architectures and can perform computationally intensive AI tasks. This enables companies to accelerate processes, make workflows more efficient, and develop leap innovations. Industries that benefit from computing infrastructure include finance, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and mobility and logistics. “Sustainable and state-of-the-art AI computing infrastructure is a prerequisite for the long-term economic success of companies. With the AI Innovation Lab, we are creating a center that is unique in Germany, which will increase start-up dynamics in Hessen, boost the state's innovative capacity and provide a competitive edge,” Hessen's Minister of Digital Strategy and Innovation Prof. Dr. Kristina Sinemus emphasized.

“Many Hessian start-ups use AI for their innovative business models — from agricultural technology to finance and environmental technologies. This is precisely why the AI Innovation Lab at the Green IT Cube plays a key role in the transfer from science to business. At the same time, we are strengthening Hessen as a start-up location for sustainable business ideas. We we need them to contribute to the economic transformation in Hessen: We want to facilitate the transformation to a climate-neutral economy and make Hessen the leading location for green start-ups,” said Hessen's Minister of Economics Tarek Al-Wazir, pointing out that one-third of start-ups in Hessen are already green start-ups.

To house the hardware of the future innovation lab in hessian.AI, TU Darmstadt has signed a framework agreement with GSI Helmholtzzentrum to use the water-cooled Green IT Cube, one of the most sustainable computing infrastructures in the world in terms of energy use. In its entirety, the AI Innovation Lab will be among the top 300 AI supercomputers in the world. With its 38 compute nodes and 304 GPUs (graphics cards) and half a petabyte of storage space, it provides an excellent infrastructure for research and development. The computers have a weight of about six tons. Several kilometers of cables were installed.

“The move of the AI Innovation Center into the Green IT Cube bridges the gap between cutting-edge research and application, because low energy consumption is a key prerequisite for the sustainable use of AI and the operation of high-performance data centers,” explained Angela Dorn, Hessen's Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts. “The Ministry of Science has therefore provided 5.5 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the expansion of the Green IT Cube into a research and transfer center for water cooling of mainframe computers.”

Prof. Dr. Tanja Brühl, President of TU Darmstadt: “As a future-oriented building block of the strong AI ecosystem in Hessen, the AI Innovation Lab creates excellent framework conditions to transfer the excellent AI research in width and depth at TU Darmstadt and all universities involved in hessian.AI into applications. With the help of robust, secure and efficient AI systems, we want to develop solutions for global challenges in exchange with our partners in business and society. I am pleased that we can continue to realize this goal in hessian.AI thanks to the great support of the Hessian state government.”

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Mira Mezini, Co-Director of hessian.AI: “The AI Innovation Lab of hessian.AI, the Hessian Center for Artificial Intelligence, opens up new opportunities for Hessian companies, startups and academia in dealing with AI as a key technology. Access to large compute infrastructures and the offer of individual services from a single source in close connection to hessian.AI's cutting-edge research are necessary prerequisites for raising the potential for new AI innovations in Hessen and thus promoting AI sovereignty. It's great that with the help of the Hessian state government, we can further advance cutting-edge AI research and application in Hessen.”

“High-performance computing and the use of artificial intelligence play a major role in modern science and are rapidly gaining importance. Our sustainable data center Green IT Cube offers optimal conditions to further advance the development of AI and to link it to our research. The funding we have received as part of the REACT-EU program has allowed the expansion of spare capacities for use by external project partners and allows the development of important synergies like the one we are proud to inaugurate today,” says Professor Paolo Giubellino, Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR.

Dr. Ulrich Breuer, Administrative Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, adds, “With our living Digital Open Lab, we provide an environment for the development, testing and upscaling of energy-efficient high-performance computing up to the scale of industrial demonstrators. In the framework of cooperations with scientific institutions and companies, in particular startups, we offer a platform to contribute to green computing and the development of AI-based technologies. We are pleased to welcome hessian.AI as a partner to our campus.”

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Johannes Kabisch, Chief Scientific Officer of Proteineer GmbH: “Proteineer GmbH uses AI on a large scale, for example to find new proteins for the production of mRNA therapeutics in huge data sets for our customers. The GPUs and computational nodes in the AI Innovation Lab will help us to significantly improve and accelerate these developments.”

Michael Wilczynska, Managing Director WIANCO OTT Robotics: “The further developments of the disruptive Cognitive AI solution EMMA include AI modules based on neural networks, which require a high level of computing power to train the models, for example to classify so-called wood defects in production batches and to automatically control the resulting evaluation in terms of the process. In addition to an outstanding AI computing infrastructure, the AI Innovation Lab also delivers a holistic range of development-supporting components that make the business location even more attractive and significantly increase its performance.”

“Machine learning and computationally intensive algorithms are the core of our products and research activities. The GPU cluster in the Green IT Cube provides the necessary computing capacity regionally to further expand our competitive advantage,” said Dr.-Ing. Stéphane Foulard, CEO of Compredict GmbH.

Dr. Andreas Knirsch, Head of Software, Wingcopter GmbH: “The computational infrastructure of the AI Innovation Lab could help us enormously to train and test our AI to the extent necessary for autonomous, but at the same time safe and reliable flights. The initiative strengthens our region and keeps know-how as well as experts in the country on a key future topic.”

“Given the ever-increasing complexity of DeepLearning models, the requirements for humans and machines to use the systems are also increasing. The AI Innovation Lab addresses both areas and creates a very good starting point for startups from the Rhine-Main region and beyond,” said Erik Kaiser, CEO of summetix GmbH.

Interlocking building blocks of the AI future agenda.

“Hessen has the potential to become the Silicon Valley of Europe, and we as the state government are investing in the future technology of AI in order to make Hessen future-proof in both the cities and the state. We are convinced that AI can only develop its potential if people have confidence in the development and use of AI. This applies to existing measures such as the Hessian Center for Artificial Intelligence hessian.AI or the Center for Responsible Digitalization ZEVEDI, as well as to our ‘AI Quality & Testing Hub’, which is unique in Germany. And with our funded Center for Applied Quantum Computing, Hessen is already preparing for the use of the next generation of supercomputers,” Sinemus concluded.

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