UI, IBM Declares $ 200 Million Discovery Accelerator Institute at College of Illinois

URBANA – IBM and the State of Illinois are partnering with the University of Illinois to invest $ 200 million in a new Discovery Accelerator Institute over 10 years.

Grainger College of Engineering hopes to open the new institute this fall, said Dean Rashid Bashir.

“We look forward to working with you to develop this new model of business-academia partnership to truly make the world a better place and make an impact,” said Bashir. “We really believe this will have a huge impact on our university, college, region and state.”

The collaboration will examine hybrid cloud computing and artificial intelligence, quantum information systems, material discovery and sustainability.

The institute will also include a building that will house some of the research with state support, and Bashir said more details on this will be provided in the future.

Bashir said experts from IBM would work with the UI faculty on research and advise students.

“We hope that IBM researchers will come here and that our students will visit IBM labs and work together,” said Bashir.

Bashir said the partnership emerged from the IBM-Illinois Center for Cognitive Computing Systems Research, launched in 2016.

“The college has a great relationship with IBM through C3SR and this center is entering its fifth year this summer,” said Bashir. “I had a meeting with the CEO of IBM and other executives at IBM last fall and we discussed wanting to work together more. The overall goal is for the private sector and academia to work together in unique ways to expand our research and innovation capacity. “

Jeff Welser, COO of IBM Research, said IBM “realized that there was an opportunity here to really try and make something much bigger.”

Welser and Bashir said they will spend the summer setting the specific projects before the institute starts in the fall.

IBM hopes to benefit from the partnership, Welser said, but said it should benefit the broader industry as well.

“Not only do we obviously want to get the technology results that we believe will help us … but we think it is important for the industry to just expand the research ecosystem in this area,” said Welser. “We will benefit from it, but of course many other people will also benefit from it. We will be publishing articles about some of the findings and developing open source software that we can put into the community. “

Bashir and Welser declined to share the split of the $ 200 million investment, but Welser said it would come in the form of cash, computer resources, and the time of his own researchers.

Welser said the name – Discovery Accelerator Institute – came from an idea at IBM.

“We have just this thesis at IBM, which we call accelerated discovery. One of the most important things we can do with IT and computing technology in the years to come is find ways to accelerate our ability to discover a new chemical, a new drug, a new material, and it can go beyond – it could be a new financial instrument, ”he said.

And with new technologies like AI and quantum computers, this process can be accelerated to a new level, said Welser.

“That was the reason we chose these specific subjects, and the reason we chose UIUC was because they did good research in all of those areas, so it’s a good combination,” he said.

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