IBM contributes $240 million for new AI lab

MIT students will be able to utilize intellectual property in their research, startups

MIT will soon be home to a new artificial intelligence (AI) lab, funded by a $240 million contribution over a 10-year period from IBM — “one of the largest long-term university-industry AI collaborations to date,” according to an MIT News press release. 

The Watson-branded artificial intelligence research lab hopes to make advances in artificial intelligence and its commercial applications, a field that is now considered to play a major role in future of computer science and society.

Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School Engineering at MIT, will serve as the co-chair of this lab along with Dario Gil, IBM Research VP of AI. They plan to issue calls to MIT and IBM researchers soon.

AI has potential applications in a range of diverse fields, such as cancer biology and quantum computing. However, in terms of industry applications, the lab plans to direct the majority of its efforts on health care and cybersecurity.

In order to do so, the lab plans to collaborate with other departments at MIT, such as the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, and the Media Lab. For example, AI in conjunction with imaging and radiology holds promise in creating tools that can be trained to automatically detect cancer.

IBM’s press release announced that the new lab is grounded in four pillars: AI algorithms, AI industry applications and development, the physics of AI, and the economic and societal benefits of AI.

Although the central purpose of the lab is to focus on the conceptual development of AI, the lab also hopes to create more realistic and real-world applications, and to spark interest within the public.

Another major direction for the lab is facilitating the creation of startups and connecting with on-campus innovation centers, such as The Engine and the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, in hopes of creating new jobs and opportunities for those in the MIT community and the Boston area.

The intellectual property generated by MIT researchers can be licensed by IBM, while MIT faculty, students, and postdocs will also have the opportunity to create startups based on the intellectual property.

Chandrakasan wrote in an email to The Tech that he is most excited about “bringing researchers from all five schools of MIT together to drive the next wave of AI.” He believes that “AI is on the cusp of revolutionizing a huge number of domains” and he hopes to “not only to advance the science of AI but also its application to make a positive impact on society.”


9/14/17 10:16 a.m.: This article and its headline were updated to clarify that IBM is investing, not donating, $240 million for this new lab.