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In the Media: “AI and the productivity challenge — an unknown frontier”, opinion article by Nuno Jardim Nunes

In an opinion piece published by Expresso, Nuno Jardim Nunes offered a look into the  growing apprehension and unease regarding large-scale language models (LLM) and their ability to potentially escape human control and develop autonomous, intentional behaviors. 

“If the predictions are confirmed, we could be on the verge of a transformation comparable to the Industrial Revolution, or, to a lesser extent, the emergence of the PC, the internet and mobile computing.”, shares the CMU Portugal’s National Director and Interactive Technologies Institute’s President. 

 As a researcher in the field of human-technology interaction, Nuno Nunes shares that he remains cautiously optimistic: “Currently, sectors such as mobility, security, health, education, logistics and industrial production are deeply influenced by AI technologies. However, it remains uncertain whether these technologies will be able to overcome what Google defines as level 2 (competent, above the 50th percentile of humans) in generic tasks, or reach level 3 (expert, above the 90th percentile) in more specific tasks. For now, the notion of attaining  a virtuoso (99th percentile) or superhuman proficiency remains a distant prospect for now .

You can read the full article in Expresso (in Portuguese).

In the Media: “Partnership creates growth opportunities for students and researchers”

The partnership between the Unicorn Factory Lisboa and the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI) was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of The Link, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science Magazine. 

 


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n October 2023, the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI) became the first research institution to partner with the Unicorn Factory Lisboa, based in Hub do Beato, an initiative by the Lisbon City Council to support startups and scaleups in creating sound products and business models, achieving sustained accelerated growth in Lisbon. 

In this interview, Nuno Nunes, CMU Portugal National Co-Director and President of ITI, highlighted Portugal’s growing prominence in fostering highly innovative companies despite the country’s size. He emphasized the role of CMU Portugal’s talent in contributing to the country’s tech landscape: “There are many projects and partnerships that benefited from the wide network of CMU Portugal talent and many leaders that, one way or another, contributed back to the country as academic leaders, entrepreneurs or by sharing their experiences with younger researchers,”. For instance, some startups like the SaaS cloud banking platform, Mambu, and the world’s first RiskOps platform, Feedzai, started as CMU Portugal student projects. These companies have attracted more than $200 million in venture capital investment: “While many of these global companies have headquarters in the U.S. or other financial markets, they share the Portuguese DNA,” said Nunes.

The partnership between the municipality of Lisbon and Fundação Santander Portugal Fund supports startups to scale up through the Unicorn Factory. Throughout the interview the CMU Portugal National Director highlighted the importance of nurturing talent to manage global digital products, which is facilitated by international collaborations with educational institutions like CMU: “Some of the Unicorn companies said it was very hard to find people with experience and skills to manage global digital products,” explained Nunes, adding that “with the help and funding of Fundação Santander, we are bringing this to Lisbon in partnership with several schools and faculty from CMU.”

Nuno Nunes ended by emphasizing that the impact of the partnership can be measured by the success of its researchers and alumni: “The impact comes after these young, talented researchers create new companies and get jobs in world-class companies or universities,” said Nunes, “even if they are not based in Portugal.” 

More information about the ITI and Unicorn Factory Lisboa partnership here

In the Media: Paulo Moniz, CMU Portugal alum, is Chief Information Security Officer at EDP

Paulo Moniz became Chief information Security Officer (CISO) at EDP in late 2010. But how did cybersecurity come into this life? “I have always been, and still am, very eclectic in my interests and tastes, so, when it comes to my professional career in information technology, I have done programming, managed systems and databases, configured computer networks, among other tasks in this field, he recalls.

In 2007, he decided to pursue an academic specialization and in 2010, he concluded the CMU Portugal Dual MSc degree in Information Security between Carnegie Mellon University and the Faculty of Sciences of Universidade de Lisboa , .

In this interview with Security Magazine, Paulo Moniz talks about his role as CISO, leadership and major challenges in cybersecurity. You can read the interview (in Portuguese).

Picture credits to IT Security. 

In the Media: Carol J. Smith, AI Trust Lab Lead at CMU, “I don’t believe regulating technology makes sense”

In an interview with Lusa, Carol J. Smith, AI Division Trust Lab Lead and a Principal Research Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University,  expressed her perspective on regulating technology. While some argue for regulation, Carol emphasized the importance of prioritizing human rights and privacy in the development and deployment of technology.

Carol J. Smith was a keynote speaker, supported by CMU Portugal,  at ICSE 2024, the international conference on Software Engineering, that took place in Lisbon, from April 14-20.

Carol says artificial intelligence is “a more complex, more dynamic system with broader applications”, affecting great groups of people, but advocates for strengthening everything related to rights, privacy and data protection.

Concerning the misinformation, Carol Smith acknowledged the challenges people face in critically evaluating information, particularly in the face of external influence. She emphasized the importance of questioning the alignment of information with opinions and fostering critical thinking skills, especially in contexts like the scrutiny of US Elections., adding that: “people don’t need to know how algorithms work. If you want, fantastic, but what you need is to know how to find the facts, how to understand if something is false or not”, she emphasizes.

Carol expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the practices of large organizations, particularly regarding data usage and potential risks to individuals’ privacy and security. She advocated for greater transparency to mitigate inadvertent harm caused by the mishandling of personal information within systems, stating that  “about how some of the large organizations are doing their work and what data sets they are using, potentially exposing people to harm inadvertently through the placement of your personal information in the systems”.

Looking ahead, Carol expressed hope for increased attention to ethics in technology over the next two years. She emphasized the importance of integrating ethics education into technological development to ensure responsible innovation and mitigate potential risks to individuals and society.

In the Media: USA Ambassador in Portugal Highlights Success of Partnerships with Portugal

In an interview with Jornal de Negócios,  the United States Ambassador to Portugal, Randi Charno Levine, addresses Portugal’s decision, under the former Prime Minister, to exclude high-risk 5G suppliers like Huawei from the country and the controversy that targeted American universities and the International Partnerships with Portugal – Austin Texas, Carnegie Mellon and MIT – stating that she believes that it is now “behind us”.

The news that Elvira Fortunato, Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education in the outgoing government, was aiming to terminate the protocols with those entities sparked the controversy. However, António Costa’s government ultimately decided to extend the agreement for another year, deferring negotiations to the succeeding government.

“I sincerely hope and believe that it was just a one-off. These are solid relationships and programs that have been in existence for 20 years,” says Randi Charno Levine in her interview with Jornal de Negócios.

Credits: Pedro Catarino I Jornal de Negócios

“We recognize that Portugal is a leader in the digital transition. We recognize that it is a leader in the energy transition. We recognize that Portugal has increased the number of patent applications threefold in the last ten years. So, there are great things happening here in Portugal,” says the Ambassador.

The Ambassador also emphasized the positive impact of American universities’ investments in Portugal, citing successful ventures like Feedzai and Unbabel “American universities are very proud of the investment they have made in Portugal with Portuguese researchers”.

Moving forward, the American Ambassador expressed her commitment to meeting with the new government to present the success of these partnerships through compelling data reaffirming the importance and benefits of collaboration between the United States and Portugal: “all the wonderful information and statistics about how successful this has been for Portugal”, hoping “that information will speak for itself”.  

Mahmoud Tavakoli features in Nature’s “Where I Work”

Mahmoud Tavakoli, Director of the “Soft and Printed Microelectronics Laboratory” (SPM) from the Faculty of Science and Technology of Universidade de Coimbra (FCTUC), featured in a  recent Nature article “Where I Work”.

 In the piece “How I make stretchy electronics for medicine”,  Tavakoli offers an overview of the work being developed at the SPM Lab focusing on the development of a new generation of wearable electronic devices that mimic the flexibility of the  human skin, with potential applications  in different sectors, namely healthcare. 

“We are working on a soft electronic device that can monitor internal organs. Standard electronic devices are rigid and invasive. But a soft, miniature robot might be able to move inside the gut to film, register data or deliver drugs without harming tissue”, explained the researcher to Nature.

Image Credits: Ana Paganini for Nature

Mahmoud Tavakoli manages a multi-disciplinary research team of Electrical, Chemical, Biomedical and Mechanical Engineers that combines expertise in nanomaterials, polymers, and liquid conductors to drive  applications in soft robotics, soft electronics, smart textile, smart plastics, and health monitoring. 

“We’re a team of 15 researchers in different fields such as electronic, chemical or mechanical engineering and physics. We even have a digital artist. My job is to glue all this expertise into one unit.”, shared Mahmoud.

Tavakoli’s research work has received substantial support by the CMU Portugal Program and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT). Through the Program, the FCTUC team has collaborated with the Soft Machines Lab from Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering on several impactful projects: Stretchtonics, one of CMU Portugal Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives; WoW, one of our Large Scale Collaborative Projects which is led by Glintt; and the Exploratory research project Exoskins. At the moment, the team oversees the supervision of CMU Portugal Dual Degree Ph.D. students supervised by Mahmoud Tavakoli: Manuel Carneiro and Marta Freitas.

The research developed under these collaborative projects, with the support of teams at Carnegie Mellon and CMU Portugal students, has contributed to significant advancements in stretchable electronics, wearable computing, wearable patient monitoring, digital health, and digital biomarkers.

To read the full story, visit Nature here.

AddVolt distinguished by Portugal Ventures

The Portuguese Company Addvolt, was one of the winners at the 2023 edition of the Portugal Ventures Awards, an initiative aimed at startups that stood out the most in the national entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2023.

Addvolt, a company focused on Building smart and sustainable transportation worldwide, was recognized in the Startup Industry & Technology category, a testament to its innovative contributions to the field

Founded in 2014 by four alumni from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP) and launched by UPTEC, the Company was one of the selected projects of the 2014 and first edition of the CMU Portugal initiative inRES – Entrepreneurship in Residence Program – a business acceleration program for entrepreneurial teams in the area of ICT. 

Addvolt has developed a Plug-in Electric system – a groundbreaking technology already patented in several territories – that ensures the distribution of fresh and frozen products without using diesel. Additionally, it is emissions-free and operates with low noise due to the combination of a gas vehicle with the refrigeration system electrically powered by Addvolt.

The 2023 company’s distinction follows its success in 2022, where it was already awarded by  Portugal Ventures, underscoring the company’s commitment to excellence and innovation.

AddVolt Website

Portuguese platform Unbabel secures $21 million in funding

The Portuguese Language Operations platform Unbabel, a CMU Portugal longtime partner and currently one of the Program’s affiliated partners, has secured $21 million in funding. This latest funding round was made possible through the support of prominent investors including Iberis Capital, GED Ventures Portugal, Point 72, Notion, ScaleVentures Partners, and Caixa Capital. The capital injection will be used to drive Unbabel’s global growth strategy and strengthen its position on the path to profitability.

Established in 2013, Unbabel’s Customer Service Solution allows modern enterprises to understand and be understood by their customers in dozens of languages by combining human expertise and artificial intelligence (AI). Powered by AI and refined by a global community of translators, Unbabel combines the speed and scale of machine translation with the authenticity that can come only from a native speaker. 

Unbabel HQ is currently located  in San Francisco, California, and has offices in Portugal, the United States, United Kingdom, Romania, the Philippines, Germany, Bulgaria, and Israel.

The company was founded by Vasco Pedro, a graduate from CMU’s Language Technology Institute (LTI) and CMU Portugal project post-doctoral fellow. André Martins, CMU Portugal alumni, is the company’s VP of Artificial Intelligence Research. 

The company has also led one of CMU Portugal Large large-scale collaborative Projects MAIA (2020-2023), focused on developing a multilingual conversational platform supported by machine translation and dialogue systems, where AI agents assist human agents. 

Vasco Pedro, co-founder and CEO explained in a public notice disclosed by the company that “From day one, we believed that language is the way to create a common understanding among cultures, businesses, and customers worldwide. In the past year, we announced two significant acquisitions for Unbabel – the German EVS Translations and the Israeli Bablic – and this funding is another step aligned with our acquisition strategy. Making Unbabel profitable will enhance its scalability and that is what we are focused on, now with the vote of confidence from this group of investors.”

Unbabel Website

In the Media: Feedzai’s journey in Jornal de Negócios

Feedzai was featured in an article published in Jornal de Negócios with an interview with its CEO and co-founder Nuno Sebastião. As the first spin-off launched under the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, Feedzai brings together a unique blend of expertise in engineering, simulations, real-time big data processing, and high-scale distributed systems.

The article presents an overview of theFeedzai’s journey as a Unicorn company, which originated in Coimbra in 2008 and is now establishing its presence in key global hubs, including Lisbon, Porto, San Mateo, Atlanta, New York, London, Sydney, Madrid, Hong Kong, and Bogotá. Nuno Sebastião, CEO at Feedzai and one of its three founders, starts the interview by saying that “there is a thin line between a visionary and a madman”, asserting that results are what defines the right side of the line.

With a background in engineering at the European Space Agency and an MBA from the London Business School, Nuno Sebastião co-founded the company with two other visionaries: Pedro Bizarro (Chief Science Officer), ormer professor at the University of Coimbra and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Paulo Marques, the Company Chief Technology Officer for 13 years until May 2022. aulo Marques, who continues to contribute as one of CMU Portugal’s Scientific Directors, played a pivotal role in the company’s early years.

All three are still strong supporters of the CMU Portugal partnership. Feedzai actively participates in the Program, most notably as a Large-Scale Project Promoter under Project Camelot and as a dedicated Affiliated Partner, reflecting its ongoing commitment to fostering collaboration and innovation.

Credits: Jornal de Negócios

More about Feedzai and CMU Portugal here.