June 26, 2012

ERC Grant for IST Austria scientist

ERC Starting Grant for Christoph Lampert for project on “Life-Long Learning for Visual Scene Understanding” • Eleventh ERC Grant for IST Austria Professors

The Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria has been informed by the European Research Council that Professor Christoph Lampert has been endowed with an ERC Starting Independent Researchers Grant (aka Starting Grant). The grant for Lampert who works on Computer Vision and Machine Learning is funded with € 1.5 mio for the duration of five years. This is the eleventh ERC Grant for the IST Austria faculty of 24 professors.

President Thomas Henzinger expressed his appreciation: “The ERC grants have become a yardstick for measuring research excellence in Europe, being awarded only to the very best scientists as chosen by their peers. I congratulate Christoph Lampert on this success and look forward to his contributions.” IST Austria professors have so far acquired € 25 mio in research grants, 90% coming from sources outside of Austria.

The goal in Lampert’s “Life-Long Learning for Visual Scene Understanding” project is to develop and analyze algorithms that use continuous, open-ended machine learning from visual input data (images and videos) in order to interpret visual scenes on a level comparable to humans. The ERC project is based on the hypothesis that in order to significantly improve the state of the art in computer vision, the scientists need to give the algorithms access to background and contextual knowledge about the visual world. The most feasible way to obtain such knowledge is by extracting it (semi-)automatically from incoming visual stimuli. Consequently, at the core of the project lies the idea of life-long visual learning.

The project is placed on the interface between computer vision and machine learning. The techniques developed in the course of the project will also have impact outside of these areas, because they can help giving ”common sense” to automatic learning systems that so far have none. Further application lies in all data-rich sciences, where it has also become too time-consuming to manually annotate every measured data sample, e.g. in bioinformatics and bio-imaging. Even projects of commercial value, such as more intelligent driver assistance, based on the project are easily imaginable.

Christoph Lampert joined IST Austria in 2010. He was born in 1974, studied Mathematics at the University of Bonn, Germany, where he finished his thesis in 2003. He held a Senior Researcher position at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Kaiserslautern from 2004 to 2007. Until 2010 Lampert was a Senior Research Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in the group of Bernhard Schölkopf where he headed the Computer Vision Laboratory.

ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grants (ERC Starting Grants) aim to support up-and-coming research leaders. The scheme targets promising researchers who have the proven potential of becoming independent research leaders. The grants intend to support the creation of new excellent research teams or to strengthen others that have recently been created.

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