MIT, IBM team up on AI research

By Bernie Monegain
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Big Blue is investing $240 million over 10 years to build the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab in partnership with MIT.

The lab will engage in research into artificial intelligence with the goal of driving scientific AI breakthroughs. The collaboration will focus on AI hardware, software, and algorithms related to deep learning and other areas. It aims to increase AI’s impact on industries, such as healthcare and cybersecurity.

The IBM-MIT partnership will also study the intersection between machine learning and quantum computing.

The new lab will be one of the largest long-term university-industry AI collaborations to date, engaging more than 100 AI scientists, professors, and students to pursue joint research at IBM's Research Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts – co-located with the IBM Watson Health and IBM Security headquarters in Kendall Square – and on the neighboring MIT campus. The endeavor will explore the economic and ethical implications of AI on society. IBM’s $240 million investment in the lab will support research by IBM and MIT scientists.

Dario Gil, IBM Research VP of AI and IBM Q, and Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering will co-chair the lab. IBM and MIT plan to issue a call for proposals to MIT researchers and IBM scientists to submit their ideas for joint research in AI science and technology in several areas, such as AI algorithms, the physics of AI, and applications of AI in industries, such as healthcare and cybersecurity. The lab will explore how AI can deliver economic and societal benefits to a broader range of people, nations, and enterprises.

Another objective of the partnership is to have MIT faculty and students launch companies to commercialize AI inventions and technologies that are developed at the lab. The lab’s scientists also will publish their work, contribute to the release of open source material, and foster an adherence to the ethical application of AI, according to IBM executives.

It’s not the first time MIT and IBM have worked together.

In 2016, IBM Research announced a multiyear collaboration with MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences to advance the scientific field of machine vision, a core aspect of artificial intelligence. Also, IBM and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have established a five-year, $50 million research collaboration on AI and genomics.

Perhaps a little-known fact is that MIT researchers were among those who helped coin and popularize the very phrase “artificial intelligence” in the 1950s.