National AI R&D Plan Update Introduces New Focus on Public-Private Collabs

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released an update of the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development (R&D) Strategic Plan today, which largely maintains the original 2016 Strategic Plan but brings a new focus on partnership with industry.

Since the release of the original National AI R&D Strategic Plan in 2016, NSTC created three subgroups consisting of members across Federal R&D agencies, creating the Select Committee on AI, NSTC Subcommittee on Machine Learning and AI (MLAI), and the AI R&D Work Group.

The subgroups reviewed the strategies of the original Strategic Plan based on input they received, and they decided to maintain the 2016 focus areas in the 2019 update. These strategies call for Federal work to:

  • Make long-term investments in AI research;
  • Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration;
  • Understand and address legal, ethical, and societal implications of AI;
  • Ensure AI systems are safe and secure;
  • Develop shared public datasets and environments to train and test AI;
  • Measure and evaluate AI technologies through standards and benchmarks; and
  • Better understand national AI R&D workforce needs.

However, the subgroups also developed an eighth strategy in the update: expand public-private partnerships to accelerate AI advancements.

“Since the release of the 2016 National AI R&D Strategic Plan, the Administration has amplified this vision of promoting ‘sustained investment in AI R&D in collaboration with academia, industry, international partners and allies, and other non-Federal entities to generate technological breakthroughs in AI and related technologies and to rapidly transition those breakthroughs into capabilities that contribute to U.S. economic and national security,” the 2019 update said.

NSTC cited that it identified benefits from public-private partnerships, such as the ability to strategically leverage resources like facilities, datasets, and expertise to advance engineering and scientific work. Such partnerships could also expedite bringing innovation to practice and enhance education for the next generation of researchers, technicians, and leaders.

Amid the broad notion of public-private collaboration, NSTC gave examples of specific avenues that government and non-governmental bodies could take to realize the new strategy, including:

  • Individual project-based collaborations between university researchers and Federal agencies, industry, or international organizations;
  • Joint programs among organizations across sectors to accelerate open, precompetitive, fundamental research;
  • Collaborations to deploy and enhance research infrastructure; and
  • Multisector partnerships to enhance workforce development and diversity in STEM fields.

NSTC noted that other agencies have already initiated public-private partnerships in AI R&D, like the Defense Innovation Unit, the National Science Foundation Partnership on AI, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program, and Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Tech Sprint as examples to encourage more collaboration.

“Advances in AI R&D stand to benefit from all of these types of public-private partnerships,” the Strategic Plan said. “Partnerships can promote open, precompetitive, fundamental AI R&D; enhance access to research resources such as datasets, models, and advanced computational capabilities; and foster researcher exchanges and/or joint appointments between government, universities, and industry to share AI R&D expertise.”

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