Big Names, Big Funding: Why Are MIT and IBM Joining Forces on AI Research?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Big Names, Big Funding: Why Are MIT and IBM Joining Forces on AI Research?

Research partnerships between business and academia have been happening for decades, but we’re seeing a lot of them crop up these days due in part to struggles for funding, with AI in particular driving some serious dollars to universities.

The latest such agreement is between IBM and MIT, which recently announced a $240 million commitment from the company to support collaborative artificial intelligence research over the next decade. The move is one of, if not the biggest example to date of a tech company committing funds to academic AI research, in an effort to plant a stake in this booming field. 

Aside from the amount of the funding, there’s a number of notable aspects to the partnership. For one, there’s an emphasis on some under-explored areas of AI research, including taking a closer look at the hardware and materials making these powerful algorithms work, and the potential of quantum computing. A new lab, dubbed the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, is planning to use its proximity to Cambridge’s booming biotech sector to apply its work to other industries, such as healthcare. There’s also a priority to study the ethical and economic implications of AI, a growing concern.  

MIT is expecting to put 100 scientists, professors and students to work through the partnership, both at the Cambridge campus and nearby IBM offices, and MIT and IBM leaders will co-chair the project. . .

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