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U.S. Invests $220M in Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes

Image credit: nifa.usda.gov11

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $220 million investment in 11 new NSF-led Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes. USDA-NIFA and other agencies and organisations have partnered with NSF to pursue transformational advances in a range of economic sectors and science and engineering fields — from food system security to next-generation edge networks.

In the tradition of USDA-NIFA investments, these new institutes leverage the scientific power of U.S. land-grant universities informed by close partnership with farmers, producers, educators and innovators to provide sustainable crop production solutions and address these pressing societal challenges. These innovation centres will speed our ability to meet critical needs in the future agricultural workforce, providing equitable and fair market access, increasing nutrition security and providing tools for climate-smart agriculture.

Director of USDA-NIFA

NSF’s investment will result in AI-based technologies that bring about a range of advances: helping older adults lead more independent lives and improving the quality of their care; transforming AI into a more accessible “plug-and-play” technology; creating solutions to improve agriculture and food supply chains; enhancing adult online learning by introducing AI as a foundational element, and supporting underrepresented students in elementary to post-doctoral STEM education to improve equity and representation in AI research.

The Director of NSF stated that they look to expand the establishment of new NSF National AI Research Institutes into all 50 states. These institutes are hubs for academia, industry and government to accelerate discovery and innovation in AI. Inspiring talent and ideas everywhere in this important area will lead to new capabilities that improve people’s lives from medicine to entertainment to transportation and cybersecurity and position us in the vanguard of competitiveness and prosperity.

Building on the seven awards funded in 2020, this second round of awards expands the reach of the AI Institutes to include a total of 37 states. The new awards, each at about $20 million over five years, will support 11 institutes spanning seven research areas in AI: Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration, AI for Advances in Optimisation, AI and Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, AI in Computer and Network Systems, AI in Dynamic Systems, AI-Augmented Learning, and AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System.

These are three out of the 11 new AI Research Institutes:

The USDA-NIFA Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support (AgAID). Led by Washington State University, this institute will integrate AI methods into agriculture operations for prediction, decision support, and robotics-enabled agriculture to address complex agricultural challenges. The AgAID Institute uses a unique adopt-adapt-amplify approach to develop and deliver AI solutions to agriculture that address pressing challenges related to labour, water, weather and climate change.

The USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Resilient Agriculture (AIIRA). Led by Iowa State University, this institute will transform agriculture through innovative AI-driven digital twins that model plants at an unprecedented scale. This approach is enabled by advances in computational theory, AI algorithms, and tools for crop improvement and production for resiliency to climate change.

NSF AI Institute for Engaged Learning. Led by North Carolina State University, this institute will advance natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning to build narrative-centred learning environments, embodied conversational agents, and multimodal learning analytics to yield transformative advances in STEM teaching and learning

AI is being integrated into every industry and every discipline, including journalism, nursing, or nutrition. From retail to real estate, AI is going to be a part of every industry’s future, and everyone needs to be prepared. As reported by OpenGov Asia, U.S. researchers have built a high-fidelity simulation environment that is designed for developing algorithms that improve causal discovery and counterfactual reasoning of AI.

The recent paper took a closer look at this problem and the researchers proposed a new high-fidelity simulation environment. They designed a high-fidelity simulation with the ability to control causal structure. A more robust AI model does more than simply learning patterns. It captures the causal relationships between events.

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