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NSF, Energy Department invest in AI research

The National Science Foundation has announced a new program to fund artificial intelligence research at colleges, universities and nonprofits. The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program expects to award approximately $120 million in 2020 to fund planning and up to six research institutes.

The planning track will provide project up to two years in planning support and $500,000 for teams to develop communities and capacity for full institute operations. The institute track will support cooperative agreements between $16 million and $20 million for four to five years. Each institute will receive up to $4 million a year.

Each institute must have a principal focus on at least one of six themes:

  • 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.

NSF expects to issue funds for up to six research institutes. Approximately eight planning grants will be awarded.

The program is a NSF-led joint funding opportunity with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate, Federal Highway Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Advances in AI are progressing rapidly and demonstrating the potential to transform our lives," said 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 full program solicitation is available on NSF's website.

In addition, the Department of Energy has dedicated nearly $50 million in funding for AI research.

The Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy announced up to $35 million in new funding for tools and systems to cut costs and increase flexibility in the operation and maintenance at nuclear power plants through Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets program. GEMINA aims to develop digital twin technology to improve operations and maintenance in next-generation nuclear power plants.

DOE’s Office of Science announced $13 million in funding for five research projects aimed at improving AI as a tool of scientific investigation and prediction.  The majority of the funding -- $11 million -- will go to two three-year projects focused on the development of new AI algorithms and software adapted to specific scientific problems in  chemistry, cybersecurity, power grid, environment and neuroscience, among others.  Three other projects will receive $1.9 million to improve reliability of predictions from AI and machine learning models.

DOE also added an AI page to its Lab Partnering Service tech-transfer portal that presents AI-related content, including DOE expert researchers, technology areas and laboratories to help investors, innovators and research institutions find information on technology created at any of Department of Energy's 17 national laboratories.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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