Presentation of the Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre


The Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre was founded by Inria (the French National Research Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics), Microsoft Corporation, and the Microsoft Research Laboratory Cambridge. The Centre's objective is to pursue fundamental, long-term research in Computer Science with a particular emphasis on formal methods and machine learning and some of their key applications.

In April 2005, the French Minister for Research, Gilles Kahn, Chairman of Inria , and Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, signed a memorandum of understanding and announced the creation of a joint laboratory in France. In October 2005,  the French Minister for Research, Gilles Kahn, and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, signed a framework agreement.  A new laboratory was created on the Plateau de Saclay, near the campus of INRIA Saclay, University of Orsay, Ecole Polytechnique, and Supelec.  Three research projects on Formal Methods and Security were launched in May 2006.

The official inauguration of the Joint Centre took place at Supelec on January 12, 2007, in the presence of Eric Boustouller, Chairman of Microsoft France, Michel Cosnard, Chairman of Inria, Andrew Herbert, Managing Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, and Rick Rashid, Senior Vice President of Microsoft-Head of Microsoft Research.

Since then, the Joint Centre has hosted over 20 research projects, primarily focused on four distinct areas, namely: i) formal methods and their applications, ii) machine learning and big data, iii) computer vision and medical imaging, and iv) social information networks and privacy.

In 2018, it hosts 5 active projects:

The Computer Vision For Hololens project develops methods to capture and synthesize 4D contents to be replayed in the visual space of Hololens users. It also develops methods to automatically learn from instruction videos (such as videos on how to change a tyre) the underlying sequences of actions. Ultimately, the project will aim to leverage such learning to create personal assistants which will help the Hololens user perform the corresponding tasks.

The Distributed Machine Learning for the Cloud project aims to design algorithms for supervised learning (in particular convex optimization) and unsupervised learning (in particular clustering) that are tailored to run in a distributed environment such as a cloud computing platform, and achieve the best possible performance in such setups, adjusting to where data resides, the compute power of individual parts of the distributed platform, as well as communication capacities among them.

The Tools for Proofs project addresses challenges raised in certifying correct behavior of distributed and concurrent systems, in which there is no certainty as to when distinct components will interact. Specifically our researchers elaborate the TLA+ specification and proof language to make it an operational tool for specifying and certifying properties of distributed systems.

The Everest project develops new languages, and in particular the F* language, associated certification tools, certified implementations of cryptographic protocols such as TLS which underlies HTTPS, and cryptographic libraries. The ultimate goal of this effort is to tighten the security of all Internet transactions.

The Cryptography for Privacy on the Blockchain project develops cryptographic solutions to enhance blockchain solutions. It focuses notably on enabling privacy of transactions on the blockchain, on developing greener blockchain solutions that do not rely on costly ‘proof of work’, and on enabling management of anonymous credentials by the blockchain.

Each project of the Joint Centre involves from 4 to 10 permanent researchers, either from Inria or from Microsoft Research, and from 2 to 4 non-permanent researchers (interns, postdoctoral and PhD students).

The Joint Centre benefits from the excellence of research at Inria and Microsoft Research. It demonstrates Inria's and Microsoft Research's shared vision of the importance of computer science research in the sciences and the global economy.

And, crucially, it is a commitment to open, academic research: the ideas, technologies, publications, and software produced by the Joint Centre are all publicly available.