C3.ai and Microsoft Corporation are partnering with a handful of leading public and private universities to launch a new research consortium focused on advancing the digital transformation of business, government and society. 

Called the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (C3.ai DTI), the consortium will be dedicated to collective research efforts focused on AI, machine learning, IoT, big data analytics, human factors, organizational behavior, ethics and public policy. The group’s first initiative is a call for research proposals focused on abating COVID-19 pandemic and using AI to tackle future pandemics.  

“We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic,” C3.ai CEO Thomas M. Siebel said in a statement. “I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.”

To support the Institute, C3.ai will provide $57,250,000 in cash contributions over the first five years. Additionally, C3.ai and Microsoft will contribute an $310 million in-kind, including use of the C3 AI Suite and Microsoft Azure computing, storage, and technical resources to support the consortium.

C3.ai DTI will be jointly managed and hosted by the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other participating universities include Princeton, the University of Chicago, MIT and Carnegie Mellon. UIUC’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications is also involved. 

The consortium plans to support and fund leading scientists from around the world. It plans to award up to 26 cash awards annually, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each, as well as access to free Azure Cloud and C3 AI Suite resources. It will establish annual awards for faculty at member institutions for developing Digital Transformation Science curricula, and it will support C3.ai DTI Visiting Scholars.

Meanwhile, the C3.ai DTI will host a data analytics platform to support research, curriculum development and teaching. It will also allocate $750,000 a year to support an annual conference, annual report, newsletters and published research. 

“This is about global innovation based on multinational collaboration to accelerate the positive impact of AI by providing researchers access to real world data and to massive resources,” Jim Snabe, Chairman of Siemens, said in a statement. “This is exactly the kind of multinational public-private partnership that is required to address this critical issue.”

The consortium plans on issuing bi-annual calls for research proposals, starting with the COVID-19 challenge. A few examples of topics that could win research awards include applying machine learning and other AI methods to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, genome-specific COVID-19 medical protocols, biomedical informatics methods for drug design and repurposing, or logistics and optimization analysis for the design of public health strategies.

The deadline for the first proposal submissions is May 1, and selected proposals will be announced by June 1. 



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