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NSF Funds Transformational AI Research Program

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The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced the creation of a new program that will significantly advance research in AI and accelerate the development of transformational, AI-powered innovation by allowing researchers to focus on larger-scale, longer-term research. The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program anticipates approximately $120 million in grants next year to fund planning grants and up to six research institutes in order to advance AI research and create national nexus points for U.S. universities, federal agencies, industries, and nonprofits.

"Advances in AI are progressing rapidly and demonstrating the potential to transform our lives," says NSF Director France Córdova. "This landmark investment will further AI research and workforce development, allowing us to accelerate the development of transformational technologies and catalyze markets of the future."

"The National Science Foundation is at the cutting edge when it comes to this Administration's efforts to prioritize AI research and development. These institutes will advance our national strategy for U.S. leadership in AI, leverage important multisector R&D partnerships, and support groundbreaking AI innovation for the benefit of the American people," says Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, The White House.

The program, led by NSF in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has both planning and institute tracks. The planning track will support planning grants for up to two years and $500,000 to enable teams to develop collaborative plans and capacity for full institute operations. The institute track will support cooperative agreements of $16 million to $20 million for four to five years (up to $4 million per year) for the creation of AI Research Institutes in an initial set of high-priority areas:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics

The AI Research Institutes program will support the advancement of multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder research on larger-scale, longer-time-horizon challenges in AI research than are supported in typical research grants.

"These institutes will accelerate the transition of AI innovations into many economic sectors while also nurturing and growing the next generation of AI researchers and practitioners," says NSF Acting Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering Erwin Gianchandani. "This long-term, substantive, and highly visible investment in AI research and workforce development will realize the potential of AI and enable the U.S. to maintain global leadership."

The AI Research Institutes program demonstrates NSF's continued leadership in AI, building upon decades of support for transformative AI innovations, workforce development, and advanced and scalable computing resources enabling AI.

NSF's ability to bring together a vast range of scientific disciplines — including computer and information science and engineering, cognitive science and psychology, economics and game theory, engineering and control theory, ethics, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and more — uniquely positions NSF to lead the U.S. in addressing key research challenges.

Earlier this year, NSF joined other federal agency partners in announcing the release of the 2019 Update to the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan. In addition, Advances in AI are core to many of the NSF's 10 Big Ideas for future investments," key among these being Harnessing the Data Revolution and the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.

Grant proposals for the National AI Research Institutes program are due to NSF no later than January 28, 2020 for Institute proposals, and January 30, 2020 for Planning Grant proposals.


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