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Biden’s AI Project Backed by Microsoft, Nvidia, and More

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The National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource aims to ‘democratize’ access to AI research.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and ten other agencies are partnering with artificial intelligence developers to fulfill part of President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI, launching a pilot program the administration says will democratize access to research. 

The National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) provides access to AI models, computing power, datasets, software, and training for US-based AI researchers, the NSF said. Researchers can apply for access to the NAIRR pilot through its website, and NAIRR plans to open a second call for research proposals in the spring of this year. If they’re granted access, researchers can use expensive, processing-power-heavy services like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Bedrock that they normally have to pay for with research funding.

Other than the NSF, other government agencies working on NAIRR are the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the US Patent and Trademark Office. The government works with 15 private sector partners, including Amazon Web Services, Anthropic, AMD, EleutherAI, Google, Hugging Face, IBM, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, OpenAI, and Palantir.

Nvidia and Microsoft separately laid out contributions each made to NAIRR. Microsoft said it donated $20 million in Azure credits, access to models in the Azure OpenAI Service, and resources to work on AI fairness, accuracy, and privacy. Nvidia committed to providing access to its DGX Cloud and AI Enterprise software.

“To continue leading in AI research and development, we must create opportunities across the country to advance AI innovation and strengthen educational opportunities, empowering the nation to shape international standards and igniting economic growth,” NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. 

Biden’s AI executive order directed government agencies to set up NAIRR to ensure the US remains the leading AI innovation hub in the world. While the US continues to lead investment and research into generative AI thanks to companies like Google and OpenAI based in the country, other regions are boosting their focus on the technology. According to the Harvard Business Review, China, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany are the top five countries putting resources into AI development. 

Big tech companies have been cooperative with the government around AI in the absence of clear regulations. Before the release of the AI executive order, the Biden White House secured voluntary, nonbinding agreements from companies like Meta, Google, and OpenAI to develop AI systems safely. However, such close collaboration between the government and the major tech players raised the specter of regulatory capture that will not disappear with the launch of NAIRR.

The NAIRR pilot will initially focus on four areas: enabling access to diverse AI resources, enabling AI research that requires security and privacy, facilitating and developing interoperability between AI platforms, and educating and training communities in using AI tools. The NSF said that NAIRR’s first projects concentrate on using AI in healthcare and environmental sustainability.

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