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Spain to invest 90M € in Natural Language Processing Technologies

Spain will allocate 90 million euros to promote technologies in the language industry, particularly Natural Language Processing technologies.

Spanish Vice President, Minister of Presidency and spokesperson, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, presented the “Plan de Impulso de las Tecnologías del Lenguaje”  at the headquarters of the Cervantes Institute in Madrid yesterday, an event at which Pangeanic was invited as key developer of machine translation technology. This high investment will take place during the 2016-2020 period and it is part of Spain’s Digital Agenda. 14 million euros will be invested to the coming year. The Spanish government made the announcement official at its website. The strategy introduces a set of key areas for the next five years in which the Spanish Administration will adopt the role of engine to the Spanish NLP industry. Lighthouse projects will be developed in three areas having great social impact in the Spanish economy such as Health, Tourism and Education. In addition, it is expected that the 5-year plan will generate quality employment, as well as providing economic opportunities for the Spanish ICT. This new strategy aims to boost an industry at which Spain has excelled in the last decade, with key researchers, companies and startups involved in NLP in projects all over the world and in several industries. Spain also has a wealth of experience managing multilingual environments as there are 4 co-official languages (Spanish, Catalan and , Galician and Basque). “There is some urgency in promoting this industry if we want our country to be a leader in scenarios where Spanish is increasingly becoming an international language”.
  Several reasons have led to the adoption of this plan. The Vice President stressed the high level of research of the language industry in Spain and the number of European and international research projects many Universities and companies take part. Ms Saez de Santamaria also contrasted this with a huge amount of unstructured information that not only the local and regional administrations generate, but also international governments, companies and organizations. “The experiences in Spain and good governance, thanks to the work of institutions such as the Royal Academy of the Language or the Instituto Cervantes, among others, are invaluable in the international arena. The term 'Natural Language Processing' defines the path to an automatic and ever deeper understanding of language as it is spoken or written by humans, using digital technology. Natural language, in contrast to the data that is normally processed by computer systems, is characterized by having unstructured information, with more than one possible meaning.

The four axes of the plan

The Plan consists of a total of 29 measures, which will take place during the 2016-2020 period. A committee of experts from Universities and research, industrial representatives, institutional and academic sectors and the public administration have been involved in the drafting of the plan. The new strategy has four main lines of action: 1st) support to linguistic infrastructure developments, 2nd) impulse to the language industry, 3rd) having the Administration as promoter of language industry technologies and 4th) Project Lighthouses. The plan, for example, will generate multilanguage primary support tools in the Health area for foreign residents in Spain and Spanish residents abroad, and also make use of clinical records and drug prospects to assist in medical decision-making. Tourism opinion mining applications will be developed for social networking services and tourist destinations, as well as tools for the automated translation of guidebooks and web portals. In education, teaching online will receive a big boost, with tools that will simplify texts for special education, aiding teachers and analyze opinions. In addition, there will be support for the creation of online courses and for the automatic translation into the co-official languages and Latin American Spanish variants. “It is said that every word that we do not know is an idea that we cannot express," said Saenz de Santamaria at the beginning of her speech, emphasizing the importance of the Plan because "thanks to this technology we will be able to achieve that computers understand our language and our texts". The Vice President again claimed that the plan aims "to put us at the forefront of technological development”. The event received a wide coverage in the Spanish press with articles in financial newspapers like Expansión, IT magazines like Computer World, and SiliconNews, and digital press ( ElConfidencial) among many others.