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University of Alicante researchers win the Pandemic Response Challenge to revive economies around the world

Miguel Ángel Lozano and Francisco Escolano are part of Nuria Oliver's team, which won the first prize of $500,000

This is the first time that a Spanish team has won this prize, organised by XPRIZE and Cognizant

The IA VALENCIA IA4COVID19 model will help decision-makers to define policies to safely reopen societies

 

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Alicante, Tuesday 9 March 2021

Researchers from the University of Alicante Institute for Computer Research Miguel Ángel Lozano and Francisco Escolano are part of the team led by engineer from Alicante Nuria Oliver, and winners of the challenge "Pandemic Response", with the Spain’s IA VALENCIA IA4COVID19 winning model. This is the first time that a Spanish team has won this challenge, with a prize endowed with 500,000 dollars. The competition has been organised by XPRIZE, a world leader in designing and running competitions that dangles people to solve humanity's greatest challenges, together with Cognizant, one of the world's leading outsourcing and technology professional services companies.

The Spanish team VALENCIA IA4COVID19 winner of the first prize has been coordinated by Dr. Nuria Oliver, Commissioner of the Presidency of the Generalitat Valenciana, and J. Alberto Conejero, Director of the Department of Applied Mathematics at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The judges decided to place VALENCIA IA4COVID19 in first place for the quality of its presentations. In total, over 100 teams from all over the world participated in the challenge. Second place went to JSI vs COVID from Slovenia. Both will help support decision-makers in determining pandemic intervention policies to safely reopen society.

The four-month, global competition was designed to harness the power of data and artificial intelligence to equip policymakers, health authorities and business leaders with the knowledge and guidance needed to implement public safety measures that help keep local economies open while minimising virus outbreaks until vaccines become widespread. Decision-makers are expected to use the results, methodologies and technology from the challenge as a reference to minimise potential outbreaks, now and in the future.  

The "Pandemic Response" challenge calls on teams to develop data-driven AI systems capable of accurately predicting COVID-19 transmission rates and prescribing intervention and mitigation measures that, after being tested in "what-if" scenarios, are shown to reduce the rate as well as the negative impacts on the economy. The winning models will be made available to policymakers, business leaders and health authorities around the world as they evaluate strategies to safely reopen and revive the economy.

The participants' AI models have been evaluated by an independent panel made up by scholars specialist in pandemic response, AI experts, epidemiologists and others. The two prize-winning teams have managed to create effective models and meet the jury's criteria, which include both quantitative metrics and qualitative factors such as feasibility and usability of the models in the real world; inclusiveness and equity, which assesses how the models take into account certain vulnerable groups; collaborative contributions, which rewards teams that develop open source models or provide data and models for shared success for all; innovation, which considers whether the teams create innovative ways to expand the scope of the challenge.

VALENCIA IA4COVID19 has been collaborating with the Valencian government since March last year to use data science to fight COVID-19. The team's winning model successfully predicted the evolution of the pandemic through the use of AI and data science. JSI vs COVID worked to develop accurate predictors of COVID-19 infections using a combination of a SEIR epidemiological model and machine learning. During the challenge, both teams aimed for more accurate models to predict the evolution of COVID-19 that could be used in their respective countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented outpouring of political and societal action. The Pandemic Response Challenge uses cutting-edge AI technology, along with some of the brightest minds in the fields of data science, computer programming, machine learning and more, to implement new strategies to effectively reopen the pandemic.

Amir Banifatemi, Chief Innovation and Growth Officer at XPRIZE highlighted how award-winning data-driven AI models will help policymakers and health authorities safely revive economies and learn how to leverage these technologies to address future public health crises.

 

Video: Learn more about the challenge in this video

 

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