Helmholtz AI roadshows: engaging the Helmholtz research community

These dedicated events provide a unique opportunity for the Helmholtz community to get to know Helmholtz AI - how?

Giving the well-known phrase a twist, ‘if the community cannot not come to Helmholtz AI, then Helmholtz AI will go to the community': Helmholtz AI roadshows are one-day events that aim to provide all Helmholtz centers working in a specific research field a unique opportunity to get to know Helmholtz AI, find out about the funding and support opportunities it offers and learn more about the community’s needs and expectations


“Democratizing access to AI maximises research impact, and that is one of our main goals at Helmholtz AI”, says Fabian Theis, scientific director at Helmholtz AI. “ All researchers in the Helmholtz Association are instrumental to our success, and roadshows allow us to explore immediate and future collaboration opportunities together.”


Gregor Hartmann, AI-data scientist at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB), attended a roadshow organised by Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) simply because he was “interested in seeing AI-related work of other Helmholtz centers”.  However, he left the meeting with an unexpected idea for a voucher project that he is currently exploring with Peter Steinbach, consultant team leader at HZDR. Helmholtz AI voucher system, still in its pilot phase, offers free AI support via small, short-term research projects through the Helmholtz AI consultant teams. “This collaboration is a tremendous help and addition to the way I approach the challenges at my work at HZB. Peter found really cutting edge approaches, such as conditional invertible neural networks, which are very suitable for the goal of the project namely optimizing x-ray facilities”, Hartmann explains.


Originally envisioned as onsite visits, roadshows have successfully been adapted to the virtual setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through several short online presentations, participants are able to learn more about Helmholtz AI funding opportunities, such as the upcoming 2020 Helmholtz AI project call, get to know how the voucher system will work in depth, and meet the Helmholtz AI consultant team of the local unit representing a given Helmholtz research. Whenever necessary, one-on-one meetings between interested researchers and the consultants can be scheduled as part of the event or at a later time.


Roadshows are not only useful for participants. “From our side at KIT it worked out really well. People felt informed about Helmholtz AI, its opportunities and possibilities”, says Markus Götz, consultant team leader at KIT.  HZG also hosted a roadshow for “Earth and environment” with a great turnout. “After the event, we got at least one voucher per participating center”, says Tobias Weigel, consultant team leader at HZG - DKRZ. 


Last month, Helmholtz AI central unit at HMGU reached out to the health community in a roadshow that has been made available online. According to Christian Müller, consultant team leader at HMGU, thanks to the roadshows “interested parties across the entire Helmholtz Association can get a high-level overview about the initiative and over the broad spectrum of already ongoing collaborations between different Helmholtz centers and Helmholtz AI. KIT will host another roadshow this autumn and other local units at FZJ and DLR are also planning on hosting their own events in the near future. 


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