RESEARCH, Microsoft joins six universities in artificial intelligence consortium

SOURCE: Ludovic Marin/AFP
Amidst a global crisis that impacts various industries, it's up to the brightest minds and leaders in the field of emerging technologies to mitigate these issues with research.

By U2B Staff 

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The University of Chicago will be among six research universities in a new academic-industry research consortium to accelerate artificial intelligence innovation to impact businesses, the government and society. 

The consortium is called the Digital Transformation Institute ( DTI) which unites six top research universities; the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Carnegie Mellon University. 

These universities will work together with artificial intelligence software provider and Microsoft to focus scientific efforts on new technologies and urgent applications to tackle impending issues that impact global society. This includes mitigating the current COVID-19 pandemic. 


Together as founding academic partners in this initiative, the six universities launched the consortium with contributions from industry funding amounting up to  US$367 million over five years. 

As the research consortium’s first initiative, it will call for proposals that focus on using AI to curb the spread of COVID-19 and advance the knowledge, science and technologies gained from these studies to be used as future reference against any other pandemics which may arise. 

“By strongly supporting multidisciplinary research and multi-institution projects, the DTI represents a new avenue to develop breakthrough scientific results with a positive impact on society at a time of great need,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. 

“I’m very pleased that the University of Chicago is part of this formidable collaboration between academia and industry to lead crucial innovation with great purpose and urgency.”

“The Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” added CEO Thomas M. Siebel.

“We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic. I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.”

Artificial Intelligence
The institute is calling for research proposals to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: David Mcnew/AFP.

The Digital Transformation Institute will focus on research efforts centring on artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things technologies, big data analytics, human factors, organisational behaviour, ethics and public policy. 

These research efforts will be stimulated through research grants, visiting professor and research scholar programmes, curriculum development, access to software, computing and storage resources, educational programmes and gatherings, and an industry partner programme. 

“Enabling the rapid translation of cutting-edge AI and data science research to solve problems in society, government, and business requires precisely this type of ambitious academic-industry partnership,” said University of Chicago Liew Family Chairman of Computer Science and Senior Advisor to the Provost Michael J. Franklin. 

“We’re excited to connect the university’s strengths in data-driven research, AI, human-computer interaction, and our long tradition of interdisciplinary advances with this tremendously exciting effort.”


Meanwhile, industry partners and Microsoft will contribute funds to further support the institute’s activities. will provide US$57.25 million in cash contributions over the first five years of operation. The firm together with Microsoft will also contribute an additional US$310 million in-kind, including use of computing, storage, and technical resources to support DTI research projects. 

The first of the institute’s biannual calls for proposals will ask scholars, developers, researchers and innovators to submit research ideas on how machine learning, precision medicine, biomedical informatics, data analytics, computer simulation and other tools can help develop and implement new treatments and preventive measures to curb the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Submissions for research proposals are now open and the institute is willing to award funding of up to US$5.8 million.