IBM will make a ten-year, $240 million investment to create the MIT–IBM Watson AI Lab as the duo seek to unlock the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

The collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to advance AI hardware, software and algorithms related to deep learning and other areas, increase AI’s impact on industries, such as cybersecurity, and explore the economic and ethical implications of AI on society.

MIT president L. Rafael Reif says: “True breakthroughs are often the result of fresh thinking inspired by new kinds of research teams.”

IBM says the new lab will be one of the largest long-term university-industry AI collaborations to date. There will be more than 100 AI scientists, professors, and students pursuing joint research at IBM’s Research Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts – co-located with the IBM Watson Health and IBM Security headquarters on the MIT campus.

The pair plan to issue a call for proposals to MIT researchers and IBM scientists to submit their ideas for joint research in AI technology (and science) in several areas, including:

  • AI algorithms: Expand capabilities in machine learning and reasoning. Researchers will invent new algorithms that can not only use big data when available, but also learn from limited data to augment human intelligence;
  • Physics of AI: Investigating new AI hardware materials, devices, and architectures that will support future analogue computational approaches to AI model training and deployment, as well as the intersection of quantum computing and machine learning. (As reported in May, IBM built and tested its most powerful universal quantum computing processors.)

In addition, IBM wants MIT faculty and students to launch companies that will focus on commercialising AI inventions and technologies that are developed at the lab. The lab’s scientists will also contribute to the release of open source material.

This new AI lab builds on a decades-long research relationship between the two – and not limited to fintech of course. This includes the scientific field of machine vision, a “core aspect” of AI; and a five-year, $50 million research collaboration on AI and genomics.

Mizuho, Mutuel, Martin

IBM’s AI ambitions and innovations have been varied.

Last month, Mizuho tested out new ways of risk management and dealing with financial crime by using IBM Watson’s cognitive technology.

Following a pilot, IBM said its Watson cognitive technology will be extended to Crédit Mutuel’s 20,000 employees and 5,000 branches in France to help with the bank’s operations.

Although, back in January, Martin Schroeter, IBM’s senior vice-president and chief financial officer, on the company’s quarterly earnings call, said AI on its own isn’t enough to compete – companies need industry-specific solutions to business problems.


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