News & Insights for the AI Journey|Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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U.S. Non-Military AI Investments Near $1B 

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The White House projected this week that U.S. civilian research agencies will spend nearly $1 billion on AI research during the next fiscal year.

The estimate was released by U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios during a panel discussion on the global AI race hosted by the Center for Data Innovation. Earlier this week, Kratsios chaired a White House summit on using AI to deliver government services and reduce costs. Attending were about 200 industry executives, university researchers and federal agency officials.

Federal investments and a vibrant U.S. private sector are helping the U.S. sustain its lead in AI research, Kratsios said. He estimated there are about 2,000 AI-related companies in the U.S., more than double China’s total, along with 17 “unicorn” AI startups valued at more than $1 billion. Kratsios said U.S. tech companies outspent China on R&D by a factor of six over the last year while venture funding was twice that of China’s.

“The U.S. has pushed the boundaries of computational power, we have given our innovators the freedom to thrive and today we can proudly say American continues to be the leader in artificial intelligence,” Kratsios declared.

The Washington-based technology think tank released a report last month on the state of the global AI race, concluding that the U.S. clings to its lead in “absolute terms” while China continues to gain ground. The center’s report focused on six AI economy metrics: research and development, adoption, data, hardware as well as talent.

The U.S. leads in terms of R&D, talent and hardware; China leads the U.S. and European Union in AI adoption and data, the report found.

While Beijing has aggressively pursued a national strategy aimed at AI dominance over the next decade, Washington has been slow to respond, essentially following the domestic tech industry’s lead. The White House this week submitted a supplemental budget analysis to its fiscal 2020 budget request as it seeks to prioritize AI R&D. The report identifies $973.5 million in non-military AI research funding.

The report said estimated AI investment levels for the Defense Department and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  were unavailable. However, DARPA announced a multi-year $2 billion “AI Next” initiative last year.

Kratsios said the report represents the first U.S. assessment of AI R&D investments by agency, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Energy Department and other federal agencies. The funding report “demonstrates just how diverse and extensive our [AI] efforts are,” Kratsios stressed.

“By breaking down exactly how we are spending our non-defense AI R&D dollars, we can better identify opportunities for future investment, conduct long-term strategic planning across the government and find new opportunities for collaboration between the federal government, industry and academia,” he added.

The budget exercise was prompted by an executive order issued earlier this year aimed at advancing U.S. AI research.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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