Top 10 signs that Norway’s Open AI Lab has lived up to expectations

Four years ago, Telenor, NTNU and SINTEF came together to create what is today known as the Norwegian Open AI Lab. The idea was to build a ‘center of gravity’ in AI research and education in Norway.

Written: Mar 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The ambitions for the centre were big and bold back in 2017, as Telenor sought partners, funding, data, and real-life problems to be solved with AI. The founders believed that by joining forces, Norway could get a leg up in the AI race, igniting a more digital and more competitive Norwegian economy and, perhaps, even society-at-large. Like we said, big and bold.

So, has the Norwegian Open AI Lab (NAIL) lived up to the expectations so far? It certainly did, and here are 10 reasons why.

  1. If we build it, they will come. By year-end 2020, NAIL boasted 12 partners and a core team of 12 professors, more than 20 associate researchers and more than 75 PhD student in AI. Partners DNB, Equinor, Kongsberg Group and DNV joined in 2018, bringing more data, more real-life problems, and more funding from across Norwegian industries.
  2. It started a trend. Once the AI Lab was announced, it sparked a chain reaction across Norway and more research and innovation communities popped up, such as CAIR (Center of Artificial Intelligence at University of Agder) and NORA (Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium). Two AI student organizations were also founded with NAIL support: BRAIN NTNU and Cogito.
  3. Our friends benefit too. The Centre for AI –Research-based Innovation SFI NorwAI kicked-off in 2020, with 260 million NOK funding from the Norwegian Research Council and industry partners (including Telenor) in its coffers. Researchers from NAIL are also taking part in this project, which is considered the largest of its kind in Norway.
  4. NAIL puts Norway on the AI map in Europe. Since 2019, the two NAIL founders participate in the largest EU-funded AI consortium called AI4EU, with a mandate to build AI momentum across Europe.
  5. It’s AI-elementary, my dear. In 2020, the AI Lab launched the first and only introductory AI course for the whole Norway and challenged the private and public sector on the speed and volumes of learning. Stay tuned, and you will learn who knows the basics of AI best in Norway. The course is called Elements of AI, and it’s designed to upskill the general population in subjects such as Big Data and AI technologies.

    The Norwegian Open AI Lab is hosted by the Department of Computer Science at NTNU in Trondheim. Photo: Geir Mogen
  6. The red carpet has been rolled out. Since the start, the AI Lab has attracted the interest and attention of top execs, as well as a bevy of Norwegian ministers and politicians. The team says that nearly every top minister has visited except the Prime one. But perhaps 2021 will be the year?
  7. It’s ok to ask for directions. Even Norway did. Throughout 2018-2020, the centre contributed to the Norwegian national AI strategy by providing input, organising seminars, and engaging politicians and policymakers. NAIL pushed for greater investment in AI research and education and stronger collaboration across academia, industry, and government.
  8. And the best master’s thesis award goes to… Every year since 2017, NAIL awards prizes to top-notch, cutting-edge AI students who are developing methods of high impact for Norwegian industry and society. Some carefully selected talents make the pitch, and the top three prizes are given with well-deserved accolades each year. What a recognition!
  9. Speaking of students – more than 20 Master students can now say they’ve been able to complete their theses with guidance and support from Telenor Research. Topics covered included cyber threat detection, fake news classification, air quality forecasting and other burning issues for the world.
  10. One thing leads to another. The Norwegian Open AI Lab brand is strong, also among young talents, and it has opened doors to many interesting research and innovation endeavors in Norway and beyond in its four years of existence. NAIL has more than proven its ability to play an active and contributing role in Norway’s digitisation journey. Stay tuned – this is only a beginning!

To learn more about NAIL, visit their website.