IRT Saint-Exupéry at the forefront of “frugal” AI

The Saint-Exupéry Institute for Technological Research (IRT) is increasingly establishing itself as one of the leading players in artificial intelligence (AI) [1] in France, by collaborating in particular with the Toulouse artificial intelligence institute Aniti. The specialty of the IRT, critical systems for space and aeronautics [2]. “We create robust and explainable AIs able to navigate complex and uncertain environments. When you put artificial intelligence in an aircraft braking system, you understand that it is better not to be wrong! », emphasizes with a touch of humor Lionel Cordesses, director of intelligent technologies at the IRT.

The organization’s annual budget is 12 million euros. 75 to 80 full-time equivalents work in the institute’s various sites in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Sophia Antipolis and even Montreal. The main city of Quebec is indeed one of the world’s leading centers for AI. French specialists and their Quebec counterparts work together on a program To share centered around embedded systems for aeronautics and space.

Frugality and employment, priorities for the IRT

The IRT also tries to stand out by focusing on projects around frugality. Artificial intelligence indeed consumes a lot of energy and, in these times of energy crisis and necessary ecological transition, the energy expenditure of AI must decrease. “We are aiming for triple frugality: in data, during learning time and finally at the time of use. It’s very hard to reach. In general, we reach our objective only on one of these dimensions. However, the French State has clearly set us this objective of triple frugality. Faced with foreign digital giants who are also working on the subject, we have to be there,” summarizes Lionel Cordesses. Sobriety can also go through the non-use of AI. “Developing artificial intelligence is very costly and time-consuming. We have processes in collaboration with anthropologists and other specialists in human behavior to measure whether AI really brings something or not”, explains the director of intelligent technologies of the IRT.

The technological research institute also conducts programs outside of aerospace. He works in particular with the Oncopole on myopathy and cancer detection projects. These multiple initiatives require the work of a lot of brains. “I’m always looking for new people. Statisticians, mathematicians, etc. I hire very promising young people before they even graduate and I call back extremely competent retirees to give us a hand, ”confides the thinking head of the AI. This one, as if to drive the point home, highlights the nine interventions of the institute at the next NeurIPSvery prestigious international conference where the Gafam regularly carve out the lion’s share with just over fifteen presentations. Proof that the IRT is beginning to be authoritative on a global level.

Mathias Hardoy

In the photo: Two researchers from the IRT Saint-Exupéry working on AI, one of the research axes of the technological research institute whose headquarters are located in Toulouse. Credit: IRT Saint-Exupéry.


[1] Interdisciplinary field that studies the functioning of the brain and its imitation by machines for the purpose of assistance or substitution for human activities.

[2] Among the many projects, we can cite for example spiritscarried out in partnership with the companies Thales Alenia Space and Thales Digital Services and the Réuniwatt company for a budget of 2.2 million euros over three years in order to remain competitive in the field of Earth observation.

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