Mind & body, Research, Technology & engineering

COVID-19 first target of new AI research consortium

By Sarah Yang

Digital Transformation stock image
UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois will jointly manage a new Digital Transformation Institute to fund AI projects that contribute to solving major societal problems. (Shutterstock image)
Digital Transformation stock image

UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois will jointly manage a new Digital Transformation Institute to fund AI projects that contribute to solving major societal problems. (Shutterstock image)

The University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) are the headquarters of a bold new research consortium established by enterprise AI software company C3.ai to leverage the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the internet of things (IoT) to transform societal-scale systems.

C3.ai announced the creation of the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (C3.ai DTI) today, along with a call for research proposals for AI techniques to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and possible future pandemics.

“The C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO of C3.ai, in a statement. “We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic. I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.”

The first call for proposals , due May 1, 2020, targets research that addresses the application of AI and machine learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, rigorous approaches to design sampling and testing strategies, and methods to improve societal resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other areas relevant to pandemic mitigation.

The institute brings together industry, including tech giant Microsoft Corporation, with additional academic and research partners at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton University and the University of Chicago.

Co-directors of C3.ai DTI are S. Shankar Sastry, UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, bioengineering and mechanical engineering and former dean of engineering, and Rayadurgam Srikant, UIUC professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Chief scientists are Costas Spanos, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute at UC Berkeley, and Tandy Warnow, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UIUC. Faculty leads at the consortium partners are William Sanders at CMU, Michael Franklin at the University of Chicago, Asuman Ozdaglar at MIT and Vincent Poor at Princeton.

C3.ai DTI will develop the new and emerging field of digital transformation science by funding programs for research, curriculum development, industry engagement, visiting scholars, data analytics platforms and an annual conference. A core value in its activities is a commitment to open-source dissemination of the results for the public good.

“At Berkeley, we are thrilled to help co-lead this important endeavor to establish and advance the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT and cloud computing,” said Carol Christ, chancellor of UC Berkeley. “We believe this institute has the potential to make tremendous contributions by including ethics, new business models and public policy with the technologies for transforming societal-scale systems globally.”

To support the institute, C3.ai will provide more than $57 million over an initial period of five years to manage the research award program as well as the visiting scholars and educational programs at C3.ai DTI. UC Berkeley and UIUC will distribute the research awards annually.

In addition to the research awards, C3.ai and Microsoft will make in-kind contributions that include the use of the C3 AI Suite and Microsoft Azure computing, storage and technical resources to support C3.ai DTI research. Those contributions are valued at $310 million for a total investment of $367 million in the institute. Awardees will also have access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at UIUC.

“The C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute leverages UC Berkeley’s strengths in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the breadth of excellence within the College of Engineering and across the campus in almost every field of academic inquiry, to effect positive change in our global society,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. “It is very fitting that we are partnering with CITRIS to host C3.ai DTI at Berkeley.”


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