AI, Quantum R&D Funding Get Big Boosts in FY2021 Requests

The White House has requested big increases in research and development spending for artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS), according to President Trump’s FY2021 budget request released on Monday. Those proposed increases are part of a plan to double non-defense R&D spending on AI and QIS by FY2022, measured from funding requested in FY2020, the administration said.

On an overall government basis, the Trump administration is proposing a six percent increase in Federal R&D spending in FY2021, to a total of $142.2 billion.

On the AI front, the proposal calls for several agencies to boost R&D funding:

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) would get a 70 increase in funding, to $850 million, for AI R&D and interdisciplinary research institutes;
  • The Department of Energy’s (DoE) Office of Science would get $125 million for AI research, up $54 million over FY2020;
  • The Defense Department’s Joint AI Center would see a $48 million budget increase, to $290 million;
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency would see its AI R&D budget climb by $50 million, to $459 million;
  • The Agriculture Department would provide $100 million in grants to improve application of advanced tech – including AI – in agricultural systems; and
  • The National Institutes of Health would invest $50 million in AI-related research into chronic diseases.

The White House said the requested increases follow the direction set by its 2019 AI Executive Order, which instructed Federal agencies to prioritize AI in their budget requests.

To boost QIS R&D, the administration requested a $105 million increase for NSF research in FY2021, to a total of $210 million. At the same time, DoE’s Office of Science would see a $70 million increase for QIS research, to a total of $237 million, to fund research at DoE’s national labs, and in academia and industry.

Separately, the White House requested $25 million in FY2021 funding for DoE’s Office of Science to support early stage work for a “quantum internet” that would represent the next great leap forward in secure networking. Paul Dabbar, Undersecretary for Science at DoE, said on a conference call with reporters today that project still requires “an enormous amount of R&D,” but has “incredible potential.”

That effort, he said, envisions creating an “entangled quantum internet” that will connect DoE national labs, which are already working on “foundational technologies” for the project.  After the project linked DoE facilities, it could also be expanded to universities, he said.

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