MIT and IBM Partner to Create the Watson AI Lab

Artificial intelligence is an incredibly useful tool for almost every facet of life, and now IBM and MIT are working together to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the field.

The computing powerhouse and the world-renowned technical university announced today plans to invest $240 million over 10 years and create the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, in partnership with MIT. The lab’s purpose is to carry out fundamental AI research and push breakthroughs in the growing field.

MIT and IBM want to advance AI hardware, software and algorithms related to deep learning. The $240 million investment will support research by scientists from the large tech company and the prestigious school. The two also hope to look at increasing AI’s impact on industries such as health care and cybersecurity, while also investigating AI’s ethical and economic implications on society.

The lab is one of the biggest long-term university AI collaborations ever, with over 100 AI scientists, professors and students coming together in Cambridge, Massachusetts at IBM’s research lab and the neighboring MIT campus. This new research lab is co-chaired by IBM research VP of AI Dario Gil and dean of MIT’s School of Engineering Anantha P. Chandrakasan.

A call for proposals will be issued to MIT researchers and IBM scientists to submit ideas surrounding the boundaries of AI in science and technology in several areas, including AI algorithms, the physics of AI, application of AI to industries and advancing shared prosperity through AI.

One of the distinct objectives of the new lab is to encourage MIT faculty and students to start companies that look to commercialize AI inventions and tech that are developed within the lab itself. This means those working in the lab will publish their findings widely and work towards contributions in open source material.

“The field of artificial intelligence has experienced incredible growth and progress over the past decade. Yet today’s AI systems, as remarkable as they are, will require new innovations to tackle increasingly difficult real-world problems to improve our work and lives,” said Dr. John Kelly III, IBM senior vice president of cognitive solutions and research. “The extremely broad and deep technical capabilities and talent at MIT and IBM are unmatched, and will lead the field of AI for at least the next decade.”

MIT and IBM have been leaders in technology and AI for years, and this newest announcement solidifies them as a destination for cutting-edge research and innovation. Just last year IBM and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard established a five-year $50 million research collaboration based around AI and genomics.

MIT researchers were actually among those who coined the term “artificial intelligence” in the 1950s. The first neural network was built at the school, and there are currently several connected hubs serving to research and develop AI further. IBM has been in the AI game for more than 20 years, building the well-known Watson, a cloud-based platform used for health, education and more. Watson became a household named after it debuted on the quiz show Jeopardy.