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New computational research centre in France

Microsoft Research (MSR) and INRIA, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science, have opened the Microsoft Research – INRIA Joint Centre in Orsay, France. The centre will be equally managed by representatives from INRIA and Microsoft, under Jean-Jacques Lévy, research director of INRIA.

The centre has been planned since 2005. The objectives of the centre are: to advance scientific knowledge in the physical, life and environmental sciences; to improve computer science in the areas if performance, security and reliability; and to communicate and share the results of the research for the benefit of the broader scientific community.

One particular project will be studying how scientists interact with information. ‘So much research is based on sharing and analysing data,’ Andrew Herbert, managing director at Microsoft Research, Cambridge, told ‘The project will be looking at what we can do with more intelligent data mining and analysis techniques, and the best way to collect data.’ Another project will be examining how people interact with computers. The research will provide a sociological and psychological perspective on the use of tools such as ELNs for scientific collaboration in research.

Another project will be looking at how to prove the security of web services, particularly those split across multiple sites. The collaboration should provide good tools to allow scientists to use computers for mathematics and theoretical physics.

Andrew Herbert told that collaboration between MSR and INRIA has been long established, with lots of informal research collaborations and a steady flow of staff between the two. ‘The centre has created a physical space in which the two groups can work together.’ The centre started its first projects and took its first students last summer, but the official inauguration was January 11, 2007.

‘The centre is beneficial for the research community as a whole,’ said Herbert. ‘It provides a channel for the French research community to communicate with industry. Our joint ethos is to do research in an open way, with lots of collaboration. It will also raise the profile of European research, which is sometimes overlooked, and allow it to compete on a global scale.’ INRIA has a long tradition of generating spin-off companies, and the centre plans to actively look for exploitation of its research.

Microsoft’s European Science Initiative has established one other research centre so far, the Centre for Computational and Systems Biology, which was developed in partnership with the University of Trento in Italy.

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