UAlbany, IBM Announce New $20M AI Research Collaboration

Gov. Hochul speaks from a wooden podium with the University at Albany seal, in front of a colorful poster of SUNY college logos
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the IBM partnership at ETEC on Monday. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 16, 2023) — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced the formation of the Center for Emerging Artificial Intelligence Systems (CEAIS) at the University at Albany, a $20 million collaboration between UAlbany and IBM that will power new AI research projects with the help of advanced cloud computing and emerging hardware out of the IBM Research AI Hardware Center. 

The new research collaboration was announced at the inaugural SUNY AI Symposium at ETEC, which convened leading AI researchers from across SUNY and featured a keynote address by Mukesh V. Khare, GM, IBM Semiconductors and VP, Hybrid Cloud at IBM Research.

“Researchers across UAlbany’s nine schools and colleges are employing artificial intelligence to power new discoveries about our world, and we are committed to giving them the best tools to develop critical new knowledge and advance the state of the art in their fields,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez, who kicked off the day's program. “The Center for Emerging Artificial Intelligence Systems will significantly expand UAlbany researchers’ access to AI supercomputing resources and make our University a leading academic test bed for some of the latest computing technology developed by IBM.”

Hochul, joined by SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr., also unveiled a new SUNY AI Research Group that will help guide SUNY’s strategy for pursuing AI research, education, policy, and workforce development. The group includes UAlbany Vice President for Research and Economic Development Thenkurussi "Kesh" Kesavadas and Associate Professor Jason D'Cruz of the Philosophy Department. 

Video of the announcement is available on UAlbany's YouTube page.

Four people stand in a line in front of U.S., New York State, City of Albany and UAlbany flags smiling and holding a blue SUNY AI Symposium t-shirt.
Left to right: President Rodríguez, Mukesh V. Khare of IBM, SUNY Provost-in-charge Shadi Shahedipour-Sandvik and UAlbany Vice President for Research and Economic Development Kesh Kesavadas. (Photo by Patrick Dodson) ​

The center is the next evolution in UAlbany’s AI Plus initiative, which is integrating teaching and learning about AI across the University’s research and academic enterprise, from data science and semiconductor design to philosophy and the arts.

The new AI research center builds on the deep existing alliance between SUNY and IBM, which includes SUNY's involvement in the IBM Research AI Hardware Center founded in 2019, where academic and industry researchers are collaborating on faster, more powerful and more energy-efficient chips.

From left to right (Kesha Kesavadas, Gov. Kathy Hochul and SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. stand smiling should to shoulder holding up blue t-shirts for the inaugural SUNY AI Sympisium.
Left to right: Kesavadas, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Chancellor John B. King Jr. (Photo by Valerie Caviness/SUNY)

“Today IBM is proud to join University at Albany in announcing our collaboration to establish CEAIS, which will spur new research and educational opportunities for the UAlbany community,” Khare said. “The creation of this center continues IBM’s track record of innovation and leadership in Albany, which is already home to many of our semiconductor and AI research facilities at the Albany NanoTech Complex. Working together with UAlbany and other ecosystem partners, we look forward to providing opportunities that reinforce the Capital Region and greater Hudson Valley as centers of technology innovation, as well as supporting a New York workforce shaping our nation’s future.”

The hardware center is based at the Albany NanoTech Complex on Fuller Road, which is also home to UAlbany’s Department of Nanoscale Science & Engineering in the College of Nanotechnology, Science, and Engineering (CNSE).

As part of the collaboration, UAlbany researchers will gain access to IBM’s cloud-based GPU computing resources, which are designed to run complex AI foundation models. They will also be among the first in academia with access to new chip prototypes developed by IBM Research.

Monday’s announcement comes less than a month after news that a New York state consortium including both UAlbany and IBM would receive $40 million to create a Microelectronic Commons hub under the $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act.

“From atmospheric science, to biochemistry, anthropology, philosophy and semiconductor design, artificial intelligence is an integral component of many research projects at UAlbany,” said Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, UAlbany’s vice president for research and economic development. “Our AI Plus initiative stands to benefit significantly by the establishment of CEAIS, and we are ready to get to work with some of the brightest technological minds and innovative teams at IBM. With the return of CNSE to UAlbany and major federal investments in the domestic semiconductor industry on the horizon, the possibilities are truly thrilling.”

The collaboration includes cash and in-kind contributions from both IBM and UAlbany.

UAlbany and IBM Research have previously worked together on research projects examining the impact of weather and climate on transportation, renewable energy and water quality as well as the social and ethical significance of advances in AI and machine learning technology. The jointly published work includes an examination of the degree to which existing AI systems can assess human trustworthiness.