EFELIA Côte d'Azur: An ambitious project that aims to massify teaching in Artificial Intelligence

Published on March 13, 2023 Updated on March 28, 2023

Charles Bouveyron, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Director of the 3IA Côte d'Azur institute, and Lucile Sassatelli, Professor of Computer Science and Scientific Director of EFELIA Côte d'Azur, present this important and ambitious project for training in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Charles Bouveyron and Lucile Sassatelli
1) Université Côte d'Azur via the 3IA Côte d'Azur institute recently won a major grant for the EFELIA project as part of the France 2030 program "Skills and Professions of the Future". Prof. Bouveyron, can you remind us what this project involves?

This project will consolidate the training ambitions of the 3IA Côte d'Azur institute and allow us to speed up and strengthen the AI momentum in our region. EFELIA stands for "Ecole Française de l'Intelligence Artificielle" (French School of Artificial Intelligence), and it was created to meet the educational goals of the national strategy for AI. The project is a joint response from the 4 3IA institutes in France and it aims to generalize AI teaching throughout France and at all levels (specialist or interdisciplinary). Université Côte d'Azur is coordinating the project with the EFELIA Côte d'Azur consortium partners: Inria, CNRS, Inserm, EURECOM and SKEMA Business School.
The successful award of a grant for this project designed to train students in the fundamentals of AI confirms the importance of having an institute such as 3IA Côte d'Azur, capable of guaranteeing excellence in research while being closely connected to all the disciplines and components of Université Côte d'Azur.

2) Prof. Lucile Sassatelli, what are the expected objectives of the project and what are its scientific perspectives?

The objective of the EFELIA project is to increase the skills of all audiences in the field of AI, by allowing the greatest number of people to apply these advances in their respective fields of expertise, but also to understand the current challenges of these methods. Modern Artificial Intelligence refers to a set of methodological advances in computer science and statistics, which increasingly impact different scientific disciplines (natural sciences, humanities and social sciences), different economic fields and society as a whole. EFELIA's responsibility is to provide basic knowledge about current AI models to all disciplines. This project will thus irrigate the scientific, economic and social fields and provide the most relevant skills for the most sustainable progress.

3) What are your levers of action and the next steps of the project?

We have identified five main levers to reach our objective and developed strategies adapted to each different audience.
  1. Initial training: build up and create AI modules for all disciplines in the three higher education institutions of the EFELIA Côte d'Azur consortium.
  2. Online training program: create pedagogical content to promote the dissemination and accessibility of our courses.
  3. Continuing education and lifelong learning: this also involves providing IA training to colleagues at the University and to companies.
  4. Implementation of a material infrastructure, a computing and data sharing platform for the courses.
  5. Dissemination of knowledge and issues related to AI to the general public and particularly to high school students.
The EFELIA Côte d'Azur project is not intended to be mono-directional, from AI specialists to other disciplines, but rather to initiate a participative and collective process, by which experts from different disciplines co-construct the most relevant training programs for each discipline.

As the project begins, our priority is to create new AI modules for the University’s Graduate Schools (EUR) and associate components. Our operational strategy has been to meet with all the EURs of Université Côte d'Azur between November 2022 and January 2023 to identify the most appropriate ways to teach AI. The result was the desire to create a minor within each EUR by September 2023, that can be reproduced in and adapted to as many master’s degrees as possible within the EUR. This master’s-level minor should present the main principles of the families of AI methods that apply to the EUR and teach disciplinary knowledge that integrates the recent evolutions brought by AI in the discipline.
We are currently in this ambitious phase of curriculum co-construction, and are setting up a working group in each EUR for this purpose. This dialogue between colleagues in the field of AI (3IA chairs, colleagues working in AI, Junior Fellows, scientific directors) and colleagues in EURs outside the AI core, in particular the heads of the master's degrees, will allows us to identify the methodological and applicative evolutions specific to the field that should be at the center of the minor’s curriculum. This work of co-designing minors will enable us to develop cross-disciplinary competencies in AI for each license degree by 2024, as well as modules for the IUT degrees. EFELIA Côte d'Azur has a real desire to create educational content that is as close as possible to the needs and interests of each discipline.

4) A team will work on the project from the beginning of the next school year in September 2023. How will it be formed?

As part of the five-year grant, several people are being recruited, alongside the management team and the training team of 3IA Côte d'Azur, for the development of training activities. The team will be composed of eight Junior Fellows in AI with a teaching and research mission, pedagogical engineers, and computer engineers. A project manager, Violette Assati, joined Université Côte d'Azur in February to help make the EFELIA Côte d'Azur project's ambitions operational.

The project will also build on the steering bodies already set up by the 3IA Côte d'Azur institute.

EFELIA Côte d'Azur