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CyI Researchers Secure Funding for Important EU Project on Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods

The EU project SIGNIFICANCE – “Stop Illicit heritaGe traffickiNg wIth artiFICiAl iNtelligenCE”, in which STARC/APAC researchers from The Cyprus Institute are leading the project, and CyI Associate Research Scientist Dante Abate is the principal investigator, secured funding in the latest proposal evaluation results announced by the ISFP-2019-AG-OPC - Call for proposals on fighting organised property crime on 22 September.

SIGNIFICANCE has been specifically designed to help and increase the responsiveness and effectiveness of the public authorities and police corps against the illicit trafficking of cultural goods through Internet channels (i.e., social platforms, web and dark web). To achieve that, SIGNIFICANCE aims to exploit 2D images and textual datasets; High-Performance Computing (HPC); Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Deep Learning (DL); web crawling for the identification of heritage artefacts sold illicitly online. One of the reasons for this increasing importance is the successful adoption of AI and DL methods in fields as image classification where Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) outperform the human level in object recognition and image search.

The SIGNIFICANCE project consortium consists of three applicants: The Cyprus Institute; Universita’ Politecnica delle Marche (Italy), and HYPERTECH S.A. (Greece). A wide list of partnerships involved in the fight against the Illicit trafficking of CH has been sought. Museums, ICOMOS, IFLA Department of Antiquities will act as advisors creating ontologies, allowing access to collections, and disseminate and exploit the SIGNIFICANCE results locally and internationally. EUROPOL, OSCE, and Police corps will contribute to SIGNIFICANCE implementation and evaluation stage, fine-tuning the platform. UNIDROIT will help to frame the legislative aspects once SIGNIFICANCE reaches capacity.

This project builds on the close collaboration between CyI and STARC/APAC Labs with the Cyprus Department of Antiquities and the Cyprus Police to tackle the challenges of Heritage at Risk, and more specifically to use advanced technologies to prevent and monitor against the looting and illegal circulation of antiquities. This partnership was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding signed on the 13th of November 2019 to strengthen their collaboration on issues of common interest related to the use of digital technologies for the protection of archaeological monuments and sites.

The recognition of The Cyprus Institute's efforts and excellence in the fight against illicit trafficking is also represented by the Safeguard Heritage In Endangered Looted Districts (SHIELD) Project. The SHIELD project has been successfully selected for funding in the framework of the Joint Programming initiative Cultural Heritage (JPICH) call.