IBM, SUNY Poly to set up AI research hub in New York

Aerial view of SUNY Poly’s Albany NanoTech Complex, home to the College of Nanoscale Science and the College of Nanoscale Engineering and Technology Innovation.

By U2B Staff 

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IBM will be setting up an artificial intelligence (AI) hub at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Albany campus, leveraging its long-time relationship with the public research university to expand its high-tech footprint in New York.

The facility, called the “AI Hardware Center”, will focus primarily on AI-centric computer chip research, development, prototyping, testing and simulation efforts with industry partners such as Samsung, Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron Ltd.

Under terms of the deal, New York’s chief economic development agency Empire State Development (ESD) will provide a five-year, US$300 million grant to SUNY, allowing it to purchase, own and install the tools necessary to support the facility.

In return, IBM will pump in at least US$30 million in cash and in-kind contributions for AI across the public research university’s tech ecosystem. SUNY will match the contribution with US$25 million, making it a combined total injection of US$55 million.

Commenting on the investment, ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said: “By investing in the infrastructure necessary to support innovation, this partnership between New York State and IBM will add to SUNY Poly’s remarkable record of industry-leading research, and continue to attract thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity across the Capital Region and New York State.”

According to Times Union, the plan to spread research conducted at SUNY Poly to the institute’s other schools in New York is part of a new model to encourage more collaboration between the state system’s other campuses.

“Our partnership with businesses continues to foster research breakthroughs and economic growth while working to combat everything from diseases and cancer, to mitigating climate change,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson.

“We continue to offer a world-class education in innovative fields, and artificial intelligence is just one example of how SUNY is investing in new tech clusters to prepare our students for the good paying jobs of tomorrow,” she said.

Once established, the AI Hardware Center is expected to attract new AI industry firms and federal research to the state, foster economic development in Albany, create hundreds of new jobs and retain hundreds of other existing ones at the SUNY Poly campus and at IBM’s and its collaborators’ facilities.

It will also further solidify Albany’s reputation as New York’s “tech valley” as it encourages more innovative partnerships within the SUNY tech ecosystem.

“New York has always been at the forefront of emerging industries, and this private sector investment to create a hub for artificial intelligence research will attract world-class minds and drive economic growth in the region,” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform how we live and how businesses operate, and this partnership with IBM will help ensure New York continues to be on the cutting edge developing innovative technologies.”

Apart from the center, IBM, a long-time anchor tenant at SUNY, will also “expand and extend” its agreement with SUNY Poly’s Center for Semiconductor Research that was initially due to expire at end-2021. The agreement will now continue on until 2023, with an option to extend for an additional five years through to 2028.

The center is part of IBM’s overall US$2 billion commitment to New York over five years, said to be its biggest in the state in nearly a decade. It is also part of its strategic push into fast-growth, high-margin areas – areas it calls “strategic imperatives” – as it shifts away from its legacy business segments.

The tech giant has been betting big on areas such as cloud computing, big data, security software, analytics, mobile and social, a strategy that now appears to be bearing fruit. In January, the firm reported earnings for 2018 that smashed Wall Street expectations, even returning to full-year revenue growth for the first time since 2011.