Helmholtz AI virtual conference 2021: #HelmholtzAIcon

With over 600 participants, the first Helmholtz AI virtual conference was a successful networking opportunity for the whole Helmholtz AI community.

With over 600 participants, the first Helmholtz AI virtual conference was a successful networking opportunity for the whole Helmholtz AI community.

For a data-driven future, it is key to maximise the impact of our AI research and address challenges of societal relevance. We invited all AI enthusiasts and experts to the Helmholtz AI virtual conference 2021, with around 600 people attending from the Helmholtz Association, international research institutions and industry. The two-day event took place on the Helmholtz AI conference platform, where attendees got the opportunity to discuss impressive use cases in applied AI, network during the cocktail party and poster session, and watch fantastic project pitches of invited PhD students.

Fabian Theis, scientific director of Helmholtz AI, opened the event highlighting all the outstanding speakers with their diverse research backgrounds. He provided an overview of the Helmholtz Association, the Helmholtz AI platform with its mission & vision, steering board, scientific advisory committee, AI consultants & voucher system, research groups, project calls and community workspace. He also provided an overview of Helmholtz AI’s partners, such as the Helmholtz International BigBrain Analytics and Learning Laboratory (HIBALL), the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) with its Munich Unit and the Helmholtz AI computing resources (HAICORE). His presentation was complemented by research highlights from each of the six Helmholtz AI local units and the launch of the new Helmholtz AI associates program.

All of the six Helmholtz research fields were represented by speakers from Helmholtz AI local units (Niki Kilbertus & Christina Bukas, from Helmholtz Zentrum München, representing Health; David Greenberg, from Helmholtz Zentrum Hereon, representing Earth and Environment; Patrick Stiller, Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, representing Matter; Stefan Kesselheim, from Forschungszentrum Jülich, representing Information, Charlotte Debus, from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, representing Energy, and Rudolph Triebel & Lichao Mou, from the German Aerospace Center, representing Aeronautics, Space and Transport), who presented applied AI/ML use cases for discussion and as an example for future research projects that could potentially benefit from these technologies.

The Helmholtz AI virtual conference 2021 featured two distinguished keynote speakers: Bernt Schiele (Max Planck Director at MPI for Informatics & Professor at Saarland University) spoke about the challenges and opportunities for robustness and security in computer vision and machine learning, and Mihaela van der Schaar (John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Machine Learning, AI and Medicine, University of Cambridge) explained the influences of machine learning on medicine and vice versa.

PhD students had the opportunity to submit a 3-minute video for the PhD Elevator Pitch Competition. The jury consisting of Xiaoxiang Zhu (DLR), Morris Riedel (FZJ) and Corinna Schrum (Hereon) from the Helmholtz AI steering board selected five PhDs to present their projects at the live pitch event. Noha Sarhan from the University of Hamburg won the first prize presenting her work on “Sign Language Recognition using 3D Convolutional Neural Networks”. All videos are available for registered participants on the conference platform (until July 2021).

During the speed networking session, one could not only exchange scientific knowledge with other conference participants, but also virtually toast together using the cocktail of the delivered goodie bag. With the same networking goal, conference participants were encouraged to submit a digital scientific poster providing an overview of relevant use cases or projects; more than 50 posters, clustered by method or domain area, were discussed virtually at the evening session of the last day, sparkling conversation and networking opportunities. Marc Horlacher from the Helmholtz Zentrum München won the first prize presenting his poster on "Computational Mapping of the Human SARS-CoV-2 Protein-RNA Interactome". The abstract book is available online; registered participants can also access the displayed posters on the conference platform.


The Helmholtz AI virtual conference 2021 was the ideal opportunity to learn about the platform and its first AI success stories, exchange ideas about AI projects, discuss future AI research and further expand the Helmholtz AI network.

More information on the Helmholtz AI virtual conference 2021 can be found at:

We hope to see you next year at the Helmholtz AI conference 2022!

All pictures shown here were graphically recorded by Beate Kopp of DESIGN.KONZEPT ( during our conference.