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Business-Academic A.I. Research Network Formed

Artificial intelligence graphic

(Seanbatty, Pixabay)

26 Mar. 2020. Two companies, including Microsoft Corp., and several research universities plan to study artificial intelligence for digitally transforming government and business. And the first project undertaken by the new consortium calls for applying A.I. to advance science and technology for protecting against future pandemics like Covid-19.

The Digital Transformation Institute joins the A.I. software company with Microsoft Corp. and six research universities: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California in Berkeley, Princeton University, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois Urbana-Champaign is also taking part. The project is jointly managed by UC Berkeley and Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The institute plans to sponsor scientists at these institutions to study ways A.I. can accelerate the pace of transformation in business and government, as well as society as a whole. In addition, a community of visiting scholars and the interchange between industry and academia are expected to help form the foundation of an emerging science of digital transformation.

The C3.a1 Digital Transformation Institute aims to study A.I. technologies interacting with the Internet of things, big data analytics, data security, human factors, organizational behavior, ethics, and public policy. Researchers plan to investigate A.I.’s use in creating new business models and implementing organizational change, while mindful of meeting the needs of public policy and ethical practice. And the institute recommends research produced under its sponsorship be published in the public domain.

The institute plans to issue up to 26 cash awards annually, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each, and providing access to and Microsoft Azure Cloud resources, including data analytics. In addition, the institute is supporting visiting scholars and research scientists with stipends, curriculum development help, and an educational program including an annual conference.

The first call for proposals from the Digital Transformation Institute seeks ideas for applying A.I. tools to combat the current Covd-19 pandemic, and better prepare for future infectious disease encounters. Labs and teams are asked to propose research such as machine learning and A.I. for design of new drugs or repurpose current therapies, discover more precise treatments for Covid-19 infections that account for individual genomic differences, better design clinical trials to test vaccines and treatments, create improved models for simulating and predicting pandemic infections, or design new informatics tools for better logistics planning and execution when responding to future pandemics.

The deadline for submissions is 1 May 2020, with funded proposals announced by 1 June. “We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic,” says CEO Thomas Siebel in a company statement. “I cannot imagine a more important use of A.I.” is providing $57.3 million over five years to the Digital Transformation Institute, while Microsoft and c3.a1 are making available their Azure and Suite software and services to researchers, valued at $310 million.

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