Marcin Detyniecki Data Innovation Lab

Data virtuosos

For the second year running, the world’s most promising data scientists battled it out in a hackathon over the course of a weekend. Move the world forward
Nov 2, 2016
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AXA, one of the event’s three main sponsors alongside Capgemini and Microsoft, was responsible for thinking up this challenge through its Data Innovation Lab. The goal: To use structured data to develop a model capable of predicting whether a potential client will sign up to an insurance policy that is presented to them.

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To support contestants during this adventure, AXA brought in some of its in-house experts. Marcin Detyniecki, Head of Research at AXA’s Data Innovation Lab, is in his element here: his energy is contagious. While commenting on the early phases of the competition to three people at the same time – and in different languages – he cannot fail to mention that the French team from the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), who are in pole position following the qualification phase, are from the same lab where he worked at the start of his career. “They’re my favourites, that’s for sure,” he admits. “But you have to watch out for the Russians. They were last year’s winners and I’ll tell it like it is, they’re very, very good.”

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Being a catalyst is one of the main missions at the AXA Data Innovation Lab, and not just one for data scientists. "Generally speaking, the challenge for our data scientists is to identify useful information within a large amount of data," Eric Lebigot continues. "The data that we have processed is like an oil reserve that we can either decide to use or ignore."

But beyond the solutions that data scientists can recommend, it's also the questions they ask that are interesting. Which data can we use? Is it useful and, if so, why? "Data enables us to optimise the product and the service, thus benefiting both AXA and its clients," Eric Lebigot adds. "But to offer cheaper insurance we need to have a clear idea of the consequences, the benefits and the risks."

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The Russians from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology won the competition for the second year running. “We were very confident about our chances of winning” admits Stanislas during the award ceremony. “We are often perfectly placed during the competitions.

This result at the Data Science Games proves it once more.” As the sponsors rush to congratulate the winners, all of the finalists know that, wherever they finished in the ranking, they have highly valuable knowledge and expertise. Indeed, tomorrow’s best data scientists are among them.