Let’s talk with… Laura Marrón (BAIC Director)

Laura Marrón, Director General of BAIC- Basque Artificial Intelligence Center, talks to LCAMP about the impact of AI on the world of work, and her work to identify skills trends and promote the industrial future of the Basque Country.

The Basque Artificial Intelligence Centre (BAIC) was created in 2021. What is its mission and its main initiatives? And why was it important for the Basque Country to create this innovative centre?

The Basque Artificial Intelligence Centre’s (BAIC) main mission is to promote the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the Basque Country, to foster innovation, improve the competitiveness of local companies and contribute to social welfare. BAIC also has the vision of positioning the Basque Country as an international benchmark in this field.

We are taking the necessary steps and establishing the necessary collaborations to evolve our industry in the Basque Country towards a more competitive and sustainable model based on artificial intelligence.

  • To this end, we see it as key to strengthening collaboration, for which BAIC is a clear benchmark.
  • Training, for which we must make an unequivocal commitment by creating a community of experts that generates, maintains and attracts talent.
  • Ethics and responsibility, accompanying SMEs to ensure that this process of change reaches all layers of the production model.
  • The data strategy. In the new data economy scenario, it is essential to be able to have sufficient and quality data, to know how to find it; extract it; refine it; store it; distribute it securely and reliably… and monetise it.

BAIC is needed as a meeting point and tractor connecting the dots of AI in the Basque Country, as this cross-cutting challenge can only be tackled collaboratively. We have created a space for public-private collaboration that seeks to lead the development of AI in the Basque Country. We continue to take steps in the process of joining new partners that will continue to enrich the AI ecosystem in the Basque Country.

Likewise, the creation of BAIC is crucial for the Basque Country to consolidate its position as a leader in the adoption and development of artificial intelligence technologies, fostering industrial competitiveness, innovation and regional economic development.

What does the Advanced Manufacturing sector represent for the Basque Country?

The Advanced Manufacturing sector is crucial for the Basque Country due to its significant contribution to regional GDP and its capacity to drive innovation, competitiveness and high-quality employment. It represents a fundamental pillar in the region’s industrialisation and digital transformation strategy, facilitating the transition towards a more sustainable, digitised and knowledge-based economy.

We can contextualise with the 2020 data of the Digital Transformation Strategy for the Basque Country 2025.

The Basque Country has a very significant industrial production (23.8% of GDP) and a very powerful information and communications technology (ICT) sector, with a turnover of €5.3 billion.

According to the BAIC observatory, what are the main skills needed by the Advanced Manufacturing Industry in the Basque Country?

This is precisely the type of issue analysed in the “AI Training Supply Study” that we published a few weeks ago. The profiles required have been analysed based on competences that hinge on business knowledge and are complemented with others more related to new technologies and the data economy, such as data analytics, data visualisation, data engineering, data quality and governance, IoT technologies, data security, infrastructure, algorithms and programming.

Currently, at the research level, our universities and technology centres have leading European research groups in fields such as Natural Language Processing or deep learning. At the business level, Basque ICT companies have extensive experience implementing AI solutions in various sectors.

However, it is in the business fabric of sectors such as advanced manufacturing, energy or health where the application of this technology will be a turning point. It is in these sectors where many steps have already been taken, but there is still work to be done to increase the penetration of these technologies, always aimed at solving real challenges and problems.

And to increase these capacities, we need trained people who can deal with them. The study of the training offer that we have just released shows the options available in the Basque ecosystem to increase our level of training and continue to increase the network of people who are joining this type of initiative every day.

How is BAIC cooperating with Basque training centres to train/improve/train students and workers in these skills?

Currently, the main universities in the Basque Country, as well as other training centres, are collaborating partners of BAIC. One of our common objectives is to foster the development of a community of experts capable of generating, retaining and attracting specialised talent in the field. To date, one of our most outstanding achievements has been the preparation of the training offer report mentioned in the previous point.

This document not only compiles all the training programmes available to specialise in AI but also provides a detailed analysis of the current situation in the sector. The report is available here.

Through this cooperation, which includes both formal and non-formal training, we match the training offer with the demand and needs of the business, both current and future projections, so that we can facilitate the expansion of the existing offer in line with the needs of the ecosystem.

Which jobs will benefit most from the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence? And what would their profiles be?
At BAIC, we have identified seven key profiles that play a crucial role in the various phases of the development of artificial intelligence projects. These could be considered the most AI-specific profiles, those people who will be most at the centre of the application of these technologies:

  • Data Translator
  • Data Acquisition
  • Data Scientist
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Governance
  • Data Architect
  • Data Engineer

For a detailed description of each of these profiles, as well as to view the corresponding infographic, you can do so here.

However, the impact of these tools is much more transversal and it will be all of us who, in one way or another, will be evolving our way of working, assisted by AI. It is therefore an opportunity that will gradually become capillarised at all levels.

In your opinion, how can these sectors (Artificial Intelligence / Advanced Manufacturing) be made more attractive to women/girls and under-represented groups?

To increase the attractiveness of certain sectors, it is essential to promote inclusion and diversity from an early educational stage, demystify gender stereotypes associated with STEM careers, implement mentoring programmes and highlight role models. Equity initiatives and targeted mentoring programmes must boost the participation of women and underrepresented groups.

At BAIC, we actively contribute to the promotion of these sectors among women and girls. This year, we co-organised an event for young people in collaboration with Emakumeak Zientzian, an initiative that focuses on achieving gender equality in science and technology. The event was designed to raise awareness, especially among women, of the employment and personal development opportunities that artificial intelligence can offer.

When we think about the future of advanced manufacturing, we must also think about the green transition. How are green skills integrated into the technology sectors?

Sustainability is a relevant point in technology sectors in general and in applied AI in particular. In fact, within the catalogue of use cases that we published in BAIC and whose first edition is accessible through the web, of the 46 detailed cases, 16 correspond to applications related to energy efficiency.

These technologies have the potential to address the challenge of the energy transition and deliver breakthroughs in energy efficiency. However, the capacity needed to train them is also an issue that AI developers and researchers are working on.

Sustainability is a key issue, as is ethics by design, which we include in BAIC’s strategy and to which the ecosystem contributes.

Finally, how do you imagine the industrial future of the Basque Country in five years?

In the Basque Country, we have the necessary stakeholders, capacities and network to advance our companies along the lines that global innovation is demanding. We envisage an even more sustainable, efficient and professionalised business fabric, with greater penetration of new technologies aimed at improving working environments, productivity and the products and services offered. The democratisation of AI will allow our industry to incorporate these tools into their work teams at an exponential rate.

At BAIC, we are going to support all the agents so that we can contribute to this line and make it possible for our companies to be an active part of this transformation. Raising awareness in the ecosystem for responsible and ethical use.

We have an exciting challenge ahead of us.

About “People in focus”

Meet LCAMP partners

In this section, we put forward the human-centric approach to the LCAMP project. Through talks with industry representatives, learners, teachers & trainers, academics & researchers and public authorities – local, regional and European levels-, we will discuss the Advanced Manufacturing sector’s future from their perspectives.