The U.S. plans to build nearly a dozen new civilian AI research labs.
What’s new: The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) committed $220 million to fund 11 National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes, complementing seven other AI research institutes that were established last year.
What’s happening: The NSF grants provide each institute about $20 million annually over five years. Some will receive additional funding from public and private partners such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Amazon, and Intel. Their missions include:
- Agriculture: Several institutes will focus on improving aspects of farming, including adapting to climate change, modeling plants, and developing security infrastructure for initiatives such as precision agriculture.
- Industry: Others will look at challenges like improving semiconductor design and building better robots. Two institutes will specialize in edge devices and wireless AI systems. Another is devoted to using AI models to optimize systems and automated decision-making.
- Scientific research: One institute will focus on algorithms and applications to control complex dynamic systems.
- Social good: A trio will seek to improve human life at various stages. One will focus on education for children, another on training for adults. A third institute will develop systems to care for elderly people.
Behind the news: The NSF funded an initial seven national AI institutes in September. Earlier, the U.S. had said it would spend $2 billion annually on AI over the next two years.
Why it matters: Other governments spend much more on AI than the U.S., and this outlay is small in the scheme of national AI funding. However, the allocation and the goals to which it is being put suggest that the federal government recognizes AI’s importance to the U.S. economy and its potential to benefit the world at large.
We’re thinking: U.S. government funding was critical to AI's rise. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency (DARPA) provided funds to both Andrew and Yann LeCun for deep learning research. We’re hopeful that these new programs will fund similarly valuable innovations.