Hightech Agenda Bavaria

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The new department is called Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering (AIBE) and will be responsible for research and teaching in artificial intelligence (AI) in health(Bild: FAU/Kurt Fuchs)FAU/Kurt Fuchs

New research unit ‘Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering’ will strengthen Erlangen’s position as an AI health hub

On 1 May 2020, FAU opened the Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering (AIBE) department at the Faculty of Engineering for research and teaching in the field of artificial intelligence in health. The University is using the professorships it has received within the framework of the Hightech Agenda Bavaria for strengthening Erlangen’s position as an AI health hub and for increasing innovation in universities as the new department will not follow the structure of a Chair. FAU is therefore creating the best conditions for exchanging information within the University and for partnerships.

Close interdisciplinary collaboration with the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine is particularly important. The professorships will work on each stage of the three defined areas of research – ‘Medical Procedures, Processes, and Interventions’, ‘Data, Sensors, and Devices’ as well as ‘Medical Robotics’.

The new department has been allocated significant staff resources to strengthen its profile. In addition to the eight professorships from the Hightech Agenda, FAU will provide four additional open topic assistant professorships and a further four assistant professorships for digital health.

FAU is turning its attention to the major challenges in the field of digital healthcare with the new department.

In ‘Medical Procedures, Processes, and Interventions’, researchers investigate medical processes such as those in precision medicine or in digital medical care at home. Further topics include neurosensors, personalised therapies and digital diagnosis and therapy.

The ‘Data, Sensors and Devices’ research area focuses on human-technology interaction, for example autonomous or intelligent data acquisition or the integration, representation and visualisation of data. It also focuses on methods for bioinformatics and intelligent materials and sensors.

In addition to robotics in medicine, such as robot carers or surgical robots, the ‘Medical Robotics’ research area investigates intelligent prosthetics, the latter is visible in the field of wearable robotics.

AIBE forms the basis for establishing Erlangen as an AI health hub as envisaged by the Hightech Agenda Bavaria in a sustainable and visible manner.

The way in which the new department is organised is also highly innovative. A central office provides administrative support to the new department. In engineering, employees work together in a joint engineering/workshop unit. Furthermore, positions, spaces and rooms are not allocated to Chairs, as is the case in many areas of FAU and in other universities across Germany, rather they are allocated directly to the department, which ensures they are used in the most efficient way possible.

‘Thanks to the AI professorships from the Hightech Agenda Bavaria, we have the unique opportunity to create the innovative structure that we have long desired at FAU, but that cannot be implemented in an existing system for obvious reasons,’ says FAU President Joachim Hornegger. ‘We regard our new Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Engineering department, or AIBE for short, as a pilot project for modern organisation at universities that is geared to the future. I am certain that by establishing this new type of department, our AI research will receive a significant boost.’ FAU is set to benefit in two ways from the Hightech Agenda, according to Hornegger, in terms of research and in terms of the organisational structure.

AIBE is also good news for future generations of students as the new department will set up a new consecutive Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programme in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This means FAU is creating new places on hightech degree programmes for Bavaria and AI graduates for science, industry and society.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Fröba, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, explains: ‘FAU is already a very popular university for technical subjects because of the strength of its Faculty of Engineering. With a degree programme in Artificial Intelligence, which will include the various aspects of AI as a major topic for the future, FAU will offer an excellent additional opportunity for young people to gain precisely the qualifications that will take society forward and which the job market demands.’