MIT Raising Big Bucks From Corporations to Fund A.I. “Moonshots”

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applying these discoveries to all disciplines, including material design, synthetic biology, finance, and drug discovery, Chandrakasan said. It will provide resources to researchers, students, and staff, including educating them on A.I. tools; negotiating with companies to access their data sets that could help with algorithm development; and providing software, special computing hardware, and other enabling “infrastructure.”

Researchers from all five schools on MIT’s campus will be eligible to apply for funding from IQ, Chandrakasan said. MIT plans to establish shared work spaces on campus for IQ work. The locations and square footage have yet to be determined, he said.

It’s reasonable to question whether MIT needs something like IQ. The Institute is already one of the world’s most prolific generators of new technologies and companies, and it has been adding various campus entrepreneurship resources in recent years, including creating The Engine startup incubator and $200 million venture fund. In addition, there are currently more than 200 researchers on campus working directly on human and/or artificial intelligence, MIT said, and some of their research already cuts across different disciplines and campus labs.

But MIT envisions IQ creating a “framework” that will spark more conversations and joint research across an array of fields, Chandrakasan said. The initiative is also intended to connect and enhance efforts happening on campus, like at CSAIL and the Media Lab.

“One way to think about this is we’re amplifying the existing research on campus by providing them additional resources, whether it’s funding, compute time, and data sets,” Chandrakasan said. “Part of this is going to be community building.”

Tenenbaum, the cognitive sciences professor, said that it can be difficult for faculty to pursue “moonshot” ideas because they get stuck in the “normal rhythms of academic life.” The IQ initiative could provide the long-term funding and institutional support required to spend years working with peers on solving a big challenge. “To be able to have that kind of impact … we need to change a little bit how we do things,” he said.

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Jeff Bauter Engel is Deputy Editor, Tech at Xconomy. Email: Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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