A CNRS@CREATE Program on Intelligent Modelling for

Decision-making in Critical Urban Systems

Program DesCartes aims to develop disruptive hybrid AI to serve the smart city and to enable optimized decision-making in complex situations, encountered for critical urban systems.

Hybrid AI leaps forward, beyond the current black-box procedures used in fully data-driven AI, by integrating meanings and semantics in the following way:

  • First, it embraces “analog” and “digital” worlds, combining physics knowledge with AI-based data-driven models, giving rise to the novel Hybrid Twins concept within physics-aware AI, that will be the main building block of intelligent modelling.
  • Second, it combines reasoning, using high level concepts, with the more traditional machine-learning approach. This “hybrid” paradigm enables reducing the need for big data and other resources, in particular to produce intelligent modelling that empowers decision-making technologies, as well as making trustworthy AI easier to achieve, and more generally leads to a responsible Hybrid AI.
  • Last but not least, a key aspect of DesCartes is to bridge Hybrid AI with Humans as observers, players, decision-makers, to realize the people-centric vision of smart cities. Depending on the application, hybrid AI could be the driver for decisions, and humans could be supervisors; or humans could be the drivers and hybrid AI could support them by assisting the decision process.

Hybrid AI will help us to support smart city critical infrastructures:

  • smartly, with less data (knowledge/physics-AI)
  • safely, certified and regulated (trustworthy-AI)
  • carefully, in a human-centric way (human-AI)
  • responsibly, by empowering people (society-AI)


DesCartes is a program with a SGD ~50 Million budget over 5 years, led by Professor Francisco “Paco” Chinesta from ENSAM. It is a cross disciplinary program, involving core science (mathematics, computer science, physics) as well as human sciences, with (Artificial) “Intelligence” at its core, with expertises in:

-AI: learning, optimisation..., 
-Engineering: analysis and assimilation of data at the heart of physical systems (hardware, sensors, models, management and decision 
support), model reduction, virtual or augmented reality techniques, command and control, around energy, structures, NDT and SHM, and complex systems. -Data Sciences, -Signal Processing, -Formal Methods and Trusted AI (explainability and verification), -Human Computer Interaction, -Language Processing, -Images, -Human Sciences: Philosophy, Law, Communication, Human-Machine co-creation....
Figure DesCartes

The program shares Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative – where the promises of AI are grounded in people-centric interests, and it is aligned with the “third way in AI”, as defined by President Macron.


A fully integrated program: DesCartes ranges from fundamental sciences to industrial applications.

The main technological outcome of DesCartes will be its application “Builder”. It will integrate the methods and tools developed in DesCartes and be able to assimilate developments, following ethical and legal guidelines, for large-scale development of Hybrid AI for smart cities.

The Builder will be validated by 3 case-studies in collaboration with industrial partners involved in the project: ESI Group, CETIM Matcor (structure monitoring), Thales (control of drones), EDF SG (digital energy), ARIA.

And finally, the DesCartes Builder will be valorized through use-cases identified with Singapore governmental agencies and industries, to support, strengthen, accelerate agencies vision and roadmap within the Future Smart City context.


The DesCartes consortium gathers 80 Investigators (half from France and half from Singapore), and is led by CNRS, together with:

  • The main universities in Singapore (NUS, NTU, SUSS) and A*STAR.
  • 13 French universities and Grandes Ecoles (see list of partners below),
  • Industrial Partners (5 currently: ESI Group, CETIM Matcor, Thales, EDF Singapore, ARIA).

It tightly integrates computer science and mathematics (AI techniques), engineering (domain knowledge in critical systems), humanities, arts and social sciences (ethics and societal impact), dedicated to solve currently unaddressed challenges in the use of AI techniques for critical urban systems.

Descartes list of partners

This research is supported by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme.

CREATE is an international collaboratory housing research centres set up by top universities. At CREATE, researchers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds work closely together to perform cutting-edge research in strategic areas of interest, for translation into practical applications leading to positive economic and societal outcomes for Singapore. The interdisciplinary research centres at CREATE focus on four areas of interdisciplinary thematic areas of research, namely human systems, energy systems, environmental systems and urban systems. More information on the CREATE programme can be obtained from

Visit the CNRS website here.