$1bn plan for quantum and AI research announced by the White House

IBM, Microsoft and others have committed $300m to a joint initiative with the US Government to set up 12 research institutes that are looking into AI and quantum information sciences.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that the effort is designed to ensure the US continues to excel at the new technologies amid hot competition from the likes of China.

It said that $140m would be invested in seven institutes focused on AI, with the money coming from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Energy will invest $625m in five institutes focused on quantum information sciences, with IBM and Microsoft contributing an additional $300m.

“It is absolutely imperative the United States continues to lead the world in AI and quantum,” Michael Kratsios, US chief technology officer, is reported as saying.

“The future of American economic prosperity and national security will be shaped by how we invest, research, develop and deploy these cutting-edge technologies today.”

Areas such as precision agriculture, weather forecasting and others will be hot topics at the AI institutes, while the quantum institutes will focus on areas including quantum computing and networking.

The WSJ understands that many of the areas under consideration for research do not receive enough funding from the private sector but are still considered important for the future success of US science exports.

One example cited was the development of AI-enabled tools that can advance the discovery and manufacturing of new bioactive compounds from one of the AI institutes.

The taxpayer-funded investments are also seen as a way to improve diversity among industries largely staffed by white workers.

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said: “At least six minority serving institutions, including historically black colleges and universities like Tuskegee University, are among the partners. In this way, we are establishing a network that we hope expands to involve not only every state, but every segment of our society.”

Earlier this month, a study found that people of colour are not being properly represented in depictions of AI, which risks baking racial stereotyping into future algorithms.

While research into quantum computing is still in the early stages, University of Chicago engineers recently demonstrated a quantum system that can remain operational 10,000 times longer than that which was previously possible.


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