by Stéphane Grumbach
After twelve years, the Sino-French IT Lab in Beijing has opened its doors to European partners. Created in 1997 by INRIA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to promote cooperation between France and China in IT, LIAMA ('Laboratoire d'Informatique, d'Automatique et de Mathématiques Appliquées') has conducted more than 100 research projects associating laboratories in the two countries.
Last October, the organization of LIAMA was revisited in order to strengthen its impact on cooperation between Europe and China. A consortium was created to encourage interaction between institutions sharing the same vision in ICT, a field which is a top research priority for both Europe and China.
On the Chinese side, Tsinghua University together with the three institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences specializing in IT in Beijing, the Institute of Automation, the Institute of Software, and the Institute of Computing Technology, joined the consortium. All these institutions host research teams with European partners working on joint research projects. LIAMA also opened its consortium to companies active in R&D, to develop links with the industry of both regions. France Telecom was the first company to join the consortium, and discussions are taking place with corporations and SMEs with which LIAMA has cooperative projects.
LIAMA is also a hub for European students to study in China or undertake internships in the framework of their European curriculum. Several dozen foreign students work every year in LIAMA in close partnership with their Chinese counterparts, giving them a unique opportunity to understand better the culture and start learning the language. A reasonable proportion of the European students who work in LIAMA choose to stay or return later to China to work.
Of course, the historical partners of LIAMA play a fundamental role in the consortium, the first steering committee of which met last October. LIAMA was created by Professor Ma Songde, who studied and worked in France in the 1980s and became director of the Institute of Automation after he returned to China. The Institute of Automation has been a major partner in LIAMA's projects, and is hosting the LIAMA office for the consortium.
In June 2008, LIAMA also became a National Centre for International Research, a newly created structure supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology, to foster international cooperation. Since its creation. LIAMA has enjoyed sustained support from the China's authorities and research institutions.
The strength of LIAMA is a result of the presence of a large group of researchers and students from France staying for long periods. Currently, seven French researchers from INRIA and CNRS are working in LIAMA projects for terms of several years. Among these, four are working in the School for Information Science and Technology of Tsinghua University. These sustained relations with our Chinese partners have allowed the development of an atmosphere of confidence and trust, in which the geographic distance and the cultural differences between the two regions vanish. The Institute of Automation was the first in the Chinese Academy of Sciences to hire a permanent foreign researcher, and to award the habilitation to a foreigner, which demonstrates its strong trust and involvement in this partnership.
Since LIAMA started as a spin-off from the National Laboratory for Pattern Recognition of the Institute of Automation, image analysis has been one of the important directions of research. Over the years, our spectrum of activity has broadened. Currently, LIAMA's research is structured around the following disciplines:
- computational medicine, with a special focus on brain imaging
- environmental modelling, from the modelling of plant growth to the study of the turbulence of sand winds
- secure software, formal methods for embedded software, network and grid programming, as well as open-source software promotion
- graphics, computer-aided design and interactive technology
- pattern recognition and image understanding and processing.
LIAMA has contributed to establishing a privileged partnership between France and China for research in ICT. The LIAMA consortium will deepen our cooperation with the best partners in Europe and China.
European students can check for internship offers online, or directly contact the researchers in their field of interest to find out more about available positions. Institutions or labs can contact the directors of LIAMA for further information.
INRIA, France, Director of LIAMA