QuantumBlack at NeurIPS 2020

QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey
4 min readDec 4, 2020


Katherine Shenton, Head of Marketing, QuantumBlack

This weekend marks the start of the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) Conference. In any other year, the QuantumBlack team would be travelling to the event to take part in a week of lectures, workshops and tutorials. However, 2020 has posed its challenges and so we will be among the thousands joining this year’s virtual edition.

This is the first time the conference will be solely digital — however we are confident this will only make the event more accessible than ever before. With thousands of practitioners expected to log on from around the world, it is fitting that this year’s theme focuses on how the global Machine Learning (ML) industry is adapting in the face of intense disruption — and asks what 2021 has in store.

You will find our practitioners presenting on a number of topics and an overview on where and when to hear us discussing the latest trends in data science and machine learning can be found below. You can also drop by QuantumBlack’s virtual booth, where you can meet members of our team.

NeurIPS Expo Session

Making boats fly with Reinforcement Learning

Sunday 6 December, 11 AM (EST)

This year’s NeurIPS QuantumBlack Expo combines Olympic sailing with Reinforcement Learning (RL). The rise of industrial digital twins has meant that there are more opportunities than ever to apply RL techniques in the real world. However, this is usually done on an ad hoc basis with little consideration given to how these techniques can be repeated and scaled efficiently.

Join Senior Expert Data Scientist Nicolas Hohn as he highlights how RL can be scaled across initiatives by examining QuantumBlack’s experience in designing a state-of-the-art sailing boat to dominate elite racing competitions. Building an agent to control the boat is a complex RL task due to a variety of reasons such as gaps or imperfections in available information, contending with loosely defined goals with delayed rewards, as well as the need to navigate a highly dynamic state and action spaces. Nicolas will cover the underlying workflows and technology stack required to carry out a project of this technical complexity in a scalable way. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A hosted by Nicolas and QuantumBlack Co-Founder and Chief Scientist Jacomo Corbo.

QuantumBlack Flash Talks

Across NeurIPS 2020, members of our team will be taking a rapid dive into a range of topics in a series of short flash talks:

What is a Digital Twin?

Monday 7 December 7:00 PM (EST)

Sanchit Tiwari, Practice Expert, will present the growing importance of digital twins in enabling impactful AI and automation use cases.

Trusting Machine Learning Models Post COVID-19

Tuesday 8 December 2:00 PM (EST)

Torgyn Shaikhina, Senior Data Scientist, will be sharing tactical steps practitioners can take to mitigate disruption in their ML models across the development and production phases.

Non-traditional attacks on Machine Learning Models

Tuesday 8 December 7:00 PM (EST)

Join Vishnu Kamalnath, Expert Associate Partner, for a session highlighting how to secure machine learning systems against attack.

Introduction to QuantumBlack Labs

Wednesday 9th December 2:00 PM (EST)

Yetunde Dada, Product Manager, will share the origins and latest efforts of QuantumBlack Labs — the team responsible for a wide ecosystem of products that help practitioners facilitate advanced analytics at scale.

Women In Machine Learning

Wednesday 9 December — Thursday 10 December

Women in Machine Learning (WiML) returns to NeurIPS with a two-day series of workshops and talks. WiML has become a regular fixture of NeurIPS and frequently attracts leading representatives from across both academia and industry. Full two-day listings can be found on this separate schedule but be sure to check out QuantumBlack sessions below:

Revolutionising Advanced Industries using Machine Learning

Wednesday 9 December

Available on-demand

Diana Murgulet, Data Scientist, provides an introduction to our company and discusses our progress across diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as diving into recent analytics case studies to explore learnings and best practice.

Lessons For New Data Scientists We Wish We Had Known

Wednesday 9 December 8:30AM (EST)

During this career roundtable, we will be sharing some key tips for Data Scientists at the beginning of their career that we wish we had known sooner. From building industry knowledge to tackling the imposter syndrome, we hope attendees will leave this session feeling well equipped.

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2020 has been a year of intense change and NeurIPS will provide an opportunity for us to discuss and learn from this year’s challenges and pave the way for even more robust ML practices in 2021. We hope to meet you at this year’s virtual conference!



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