by Melika Payvand, Elisa Donati and Giacomo Indiveri (University of Zurich)
Neuromorphic Computing Technology (NCT) is becoming a reality in Europe thanks to a coordinated effort to unite the EU researchers and stakeholders interested in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and nanoscale technologies.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been achieving impressive results in a wide range of tasks. Progress in AI is producing ever more complex and powerful algorithms. However, the process of training and executing these algorithms on standard computing technologies consumes vast amounts of energy and is not sustainable in the long term. A promising approach to building a new generation of AI computing technologies that can dramatically reduce power consumption is “neuromorphic computing and engineering”. This ground-breaking approach draws inspiration from biological neural processing systems. Today’s neuromorphic research community in Europe is already leading the state of the art. The NEUROTECH project has been extremely successful in fostering this community, promoting its growth, and engaging with stakeholders to enable the uptake of this technology in industry globally. The NEUROTECH services, webinars, forums, educational and public outreach activities are attracting interest from both research institutions and small, medium, and large enterprises worldwide.
NEUROTECH is an EU coordination and support action that aims to generate mutual awareness among organisations, national networks, projects, and initiatives in neuromorphic computing and engineering, and to promote the exchange of tools, solutions, ideas, and, where possible, IP among all EU stakeholders. The participating institutions are the University of Zurich (Switzerland, coordinator), University of Manchester (UK), Heidelberg University (Germany), University of Groningen (Netherlands), Italian Institute of Technology (IIT, Italy), University of Bordeaux (France), University of Hertfordshire (UK), THALES SA (France), IBM Research GmbH (Switzerland), Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (CNR, Italy), Interuniversitair Micro-Electronica Centrum vzw (IMEC, Belgium) and Commissariat a l’Energie Automatique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA LETI, France).
The project is a coordination action that organises a variety of events around the topic of NCTs. The various events include monthly educational activities, where experts are invited to answer a specific question on NCTs, e.g., supporting technologies for neuromorphic processing, event-driven sensors, and processors, and circuits for online learning. Every event is recorded and uploaded in an online channel, which acts as a collection of introductory material for students and researchers who want to get involved in neuromorphic computing. The project is composed of four subgroups: Industry, Bridge, Science, and Ethics, which aim to create a connection with industry and other communities, and to define guidelines for ethics in neuromorphic computing and engineering. Each workgroup organises periodic webinars and panel discussions to increase awareness within the community and with a large audience. With the exception of an initial forum, held in Leuven, Belgium, in 2019, all these events are currently being held online.
The NEUROTECH web portal [L1] aims to create a web presence for the project that can be used to make both the NCT community and potential partners outside the core community aware of the project and its plans. In addition, the web portal collects useful resources for the community, such as datasets, references (papers, books, courses), and deliverables. The web portal also provides a Roadmap  that defines neuromorphic computing and its next steps, a state-of-the-art document that collects knowledge about the latest breakthroughs in NCTs, and a cartography document that collects links from different national and international networks and organisations in Europe to facilitate the growth of the NEUROTECH network. It also provides information about upcoming events – both organised and supported by the project and other relevant events worldwide, and provides a feature for subscribing to the NEUROTECH mailing list through which relevant news about the NCT is announced. NEUROTECH Forum II that was held online on March 15th 2021 provided an overview on the opportunities of AI, technology trends, and prospects. Dedicated discussions were held on enabling SME’s to step into neuromorphic computing and AI as well as on AI induced ethical questions. The forum attracted more than 1000 views, with 150 attendees at all times for the entire day from all over the world.
The project started in November 2018 and will continue until the end of 2022. Future activities of the project revolve around the growth of the community and bridge between fields that can influence and benefit from NCT. These activities include, but are not limited to, industrial panel discussions about NCT opportunities and challenges, scientific discussions about new discoveries and the development of materials and algorithms that empower NCT, and discussions on the ethical aspects of creating NCT and its applications.
The upcoming events include the educational events that happen monthly, and the different workgroup activities that are scheduled regularly. For example, the Science workgroup event is planned on April 27th for bringing together the coordinators of the recently accepted neuromorphic EU projects to answer the question How novel technologies can boost neuromorphic computing? A view from European project consortia.
 E. Donati et al.: “Neuromorphic technology in Europe : Brain-inspired technologies are advancing apace across Europe and are poised to help accelerate the AI revolution”, The Innovation Platform, 2020
Melika Payvand, Elisa Donati, Giacomo Indiveri, University of Zurich, Switzerland
+41 44 635 3024
(melika, elisa, giacomo)@ini.uzh.ch