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Published: 31 Mar, 2020 Updated: 01 Apr, 2020, 14:33

The Department of Computing Science is expanding rapidly

NEWS During the recent winter, a new researcher or doctoral student has appeared in the staff coffee room almost every week. There is a rapid expansion in computing science that is unparalleled at Umeå University. One of the reasons is the ongoing large investment in artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems and software.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

Currently, the Department of Computing Science is spread across three different buildings in the university area and can be described as a combination of developmental enthusiasm and creative chaos. Many new and interesting people from all over the world contribute to strengthening and revitalising the environment, whilst the support staff has difficulty catching up with everyday tasks.

"In four years, we will increase the workforce from about 100 people to well over 200, and we have already grown to 130 in just over a year," says Erik Elmroth, Head of the Department of Computing Science at Umeå University. "Of course, it is very inspiring to have the opportunity to build a strong department, with the potential to make a tremendous impact both in academia and in society at large."

Some examples of how the workforce may be distributed are plans to increase the number of professors from 6 to 14, doctoral students from 20 to 60 and postdoctoral researchers from 8 to 35.

The largest contribution to the expansion comes from Wallenberg AI, the Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP), which finances most new professors, including recruitment packages for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers. Moreover, the Kempe Foundations are contributing simultaneously as the newly recruited research leaders are expected to withdraw external funds from other financiers, such as EU funds.

Erik Elmroth thinks that the recruitment of researchers and doctoral students is going surprisingly well.

"I believe the combination of attractive recruitment packages, outreach activities to target and encourage candidates, and being able to show that we have a plan for what we want to create in AI and the software area, make us attractive to highly-qualified professors," he says.

The WASP initiative is focused on basic research, but other resources have also been added to strengthen the degree programmes and courses in computer science, partly through the University's regular funding of undergraduate-level studies and partly through external initiatives.

"The business community is crying out for computer scientists, so we want our undergraduate education to grow as much as the recruitment base allows," he continues.

Erik Elmroth thinks that he is already starting to see that the research world, both nationally and internationally, regards Umeå University's research in AI and computer science with more respect and interest. In the long term, it should be able to contribute to more influence, more external funds and improved recruitment opportunities.

"For the University as a whole, I also see great potential in taking these steps now. We have a comprehensive university where there is a need for and interest in AI in all faculties. This, combined with the fact that we are now recruiting strong basic research expertise in the AI ​​area, creates excellent opportunities for faculty-wide collaborations where Umeå University can take a leading role nationally in new sought-after areas such as AI for the humanities and social sciences or data-driven life sciences."