The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the launch of its National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes (NAIRI) program that is expected to award $120 million of grant funding over the next year to advance artificial intelligence (AI) research and promote work on large-scale, long-term research projects.

The new funding will be used to make planning grants and to set up six AI research institutes that NSF said will “advance AI research and create national nexus points for universities, Federal agencies, industries, and nonprofits.”

Several other Federal agencies are participating in the program, including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, the Transportation Department’s Federal Highway Administration, and the Veterans Affairs Department.

The program’s funding will be divided into two streams – the first will include $500,000 grants to develop plans and capacity for full institute operations, and the second will feature longer-term grants of $16 million to $20 million to create AI Research Institutes that will focus on what NSF called “high-priority areas.”

Those high-priority areas include: trustworthy AI; foundations of machine learning; AI-driven innovation in agriculture and the food system; AI-augmented learning; AI for accelerating molecular synthesis and manufacturing; and AI for discovery in physics.

“These institutes will accelerate the transition of AI innovations into many economic sectors while also nurturing and growing the next generation of AI researchers and practitioners,” commented Erwin Gianchandani, NSF’s Acting Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “This long-term, substantive and highly visible investment in AI research and workforce development will realize the potential of AI and enable the U.S. to maintain global leadership,” he said.

Federal CTO Michael Kratsios said, “The National Science Foundation is at the cutting edge when it comes to this Administration’s efforts to prioritize AI research and development. These institutes will advance our national strategy for U.S. leadership in AI, leverage important multisector R&D partnerships and support groundbreaking AI innovation for the benefit of the American people.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.