UB ready to be the home for Gov. Hochul’s proposed $400 million AI consortium

Release Date: January 26, 2024

President Tripathi smiling and shaking hands.
“We are delighted that the governor is recognizing UB’s longstanding national and international leadership in AI and data science with this momentous designation, which will make UB — as the home of Empire AI — a premier resource center for AI research and innovation. ”
Satish K. Tripathi, president
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – With deep and decades-long leadership in artificial intelligence and data science, the University at Buffalo is ready to be the home for Empire AI, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed $400 million consortium that aims to put New York State at the forefront of the AI revolution.

Hochul announced UB as the statewide location for Empire AI while speaking about her 2024-25 budget proposal Friday at the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus. As part of her announcement, Hochul shared plans to build and utilize a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence computing center that will be located at UB to facilitate innovation, responsible research and economic development.

The consortium, which would include SUNY, CUNY and private colleges and universities, as well as private foundations, will accelerate research and innovation in AI while creating sustained economic impact across the state, and serve as a reliable, trustworthy source of information as AI technologies evolve.

“The center will be a global leader and usher in unlimited possibilities of the future of this area that it never could have foreseen,” Hochul said.

She noted that promising UB students like Holliday Sims, a computer science major who intends to use AI for social good and whom Hochul gave a shout out to during her State of the State address earlier this month, will play a key role in Empire AI. “We want to make sure that New York State is the capital of AI development and empower young people like Holliday to do this,” Hochul said before announcing UB as the home for Empire AI.

“On behalf of the entire University at Buffalo community, I would like to extend my deep appreciation and sincere gratitude to Governor Hochul for naming UB as the site of the Empire AI consortium,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “We are delighted that the governor is recognizing UB’s longstanding national and international leadership in AI and data science with this momentous designation, which will make UB — as the home of Empire AI — a premier resource center for AI research and innovation.”

“Governor Hochul’s vision to position New York State at the forefront of responsible AI will spur game-changing research, attract significant federal funding and expand 21st century business and industry, cultivating sustained economic prosperity in Buffalo, Western New York and across the state,” Tripathi added. “The UB community is indebted to the governor for her bold vision, and we look forward to working with all Empire AI consortium partners to harness our collective expertise in service of social good.” 

“This is an extraordinary moment for SUNY and New York! We are thrilled that SUNY’s University at Buffalo will be the home for Empire AI and a leader in SUNY’s multi-campus participation in this exciting initiative,” SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said.

“The Governor’s proposal to ramp up our state’s leadership in artificial intelligence research and economic development will place this technology in the hands of experts throughout higher education, building on SUNY’s extraordinary leadership and deep experience. My congratulations to all who will benefit: students – like UB’s Holliday Sims who told me how she has used AI on projects in child welfare – researchers across the state, and the entire community,” King added.

“Through Empire AI, UB and our partner institutions will develop new ways to improve student learning in the classroom,” said UB Provost A. Scott Weber, “and we will offer students new opportunities to participate in exciting research projects and pursue emerging career paths in industries important to the economic vitality of New York State.”

A SUNY flagship, UB has the faculty expertise to leverage the vast possibilities of AI to solve problems facing the state and world — whether in medicine, education, finance, social justice or sustainable technologies. In addition, UB is No. 1 in the state among public and private research universities in securing cyberinfrastructure program funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

UB faculty currently are working on several research projects focused on using AI for the public good. For example:

  • Last year, UB was awarded a highly competitive, five-year, $20 million federal grant to establish the National AI Institute for Exceptional Education. The institute is developing artificial intelligence systems to diagnose and treat young children with speech and language processing challenges.
  • Scientists conduct groundbreaking research at UB’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science and its Center for Information Integrity, which has recently received nearly $6 million in grants from the National Science Foundation to help older adults and children spot online scams and disinformation.
  • Other current AI-related research projects at UB include using AI to treat brain aneurysms; spot Type 2 diabetes trends; help first responders during natural disasters; modernize manufacturing systems; predict disease progression during aging; and develop new materials for space applications, from satellite sensors to cosmic radiation shields.

“The University at Buffalo has more than 200 researchers pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence and data science in cybersecurity, drug discovery and medicine, robotics, education, environmental science, transportation and other fields that are critical to the state and nation’s future,” said Venu Govindaraju, UB vice president for research and economic development. “Empire AI will marshal these resources with those of our partnerships to create a technological powerhouse in New York State.”

The University at Buffalo has been a worldwide leader in artificial intelligence research and education for nearly 50 years. This includes pioneering work creating the world’s first autonomous handwriting recognition system, which the U.S. Postal Service and Royal Mail adopted to save billions of dollars. As New York’s flagship university, that legacy of innovation continues today. UB researchers are committed to using AI for social good, including developing new technology that addresses the shortage of speech-language pathologists in K-12 education, deepfakes, the need for improved medical imaging and more.

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Cory Nealon
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