Who is funding AI research?

Innovation in the field of AI is very resource-intensive and often needs strong financial backing.
Funding ai research

AI is seeping into every aspect of daily life, and the kind of impact it has is unprecedented. A lot of the innovation and research and development work in AI (or any other field for that matter) happens at the leading labs of the world. Innovation in the field of AI is very resource-intensive and often needs strong financial backing. Government and industries have been actively investing in such research labs. In this article, we list who is investing in some of the leading AI research labs in the world.

DeepMind

DeepMind is among the most promising AI research organisations in the world. It has several groundbreaking research works to its merit, the latest being Alphafold. Founded in 2010 by Demis Hassabis, Mustafa Suleyman and Shane Legg, the institute directs its main focus on reinforcement learning and has the ultimate goal to realise artificial general intelligence fully. DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 for a whopping $650 million.

As per publicly available data, before the acquisition, the institute raised up to $50 million in Series A and Series B funding rounds. The startup’s backers included Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Horizons Ventures, Jann Tallinn (Skype and Kazaa developer), along with Elon Musk.

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OpenAI

OpenAI was founded in 2015 by Sam Altman, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Wojciech Zaremba and John Schulman. It started as a non-profit company that was aimed at creating artificial general intelligence and using it to benefit the whole of humanity evenly. However, in 2019, OpenAI became a for-profit company called OpenAI LP, controlled by the parent company OpenAI Inc. As per Crunchbase data, OpenAI has raised $1 billion in funding over two rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Jul 23, 2019, from a Corporate round.

Altman had made a tongue in the cheek comment directed at startup fundraising earlier this year.

Interestingly, OpenAI and Microsoft entered a partnership under which the latter injected $1 billion into the research lab. This partnership allowed Microsoft to become its sole cloud provider, and then the company also obtained the exclusive license to integrate OpenAI’s groundbreaking language model GPT-3 into its own products. This partnership was under much criticism.

The Alan Turing Institute

Established in 2015 as the National Institute for Data Science, The Alan Turing Institute came to be known in its current form in 2017 as the government recommended adding AI to its remit. It is comprised of 13 universities and the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, all working towards a singular goal of developing the UK into the best place in the world for data science and AI research. The institute has five founding Universities – Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick – and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Headquartered in the British Library, London, the institute has pivoted from exploring the complicated ethics in the use of AI algorithms and data analytics for predictive tasks by the police forces.

The Alan Turing Institute is an independent, private-sector legal entity and operates as a not-for-profit and a charity. As per their ‘About’ page, the institute has been largely funded through grants from research councils, university partners, and other strategic partners. Some of its recent funding include £10 million funding from EPSRC in June 2021. In 2018, the UK Research and Innovation awarded a total of £48 million in funding.

Allen Institute for AI

Allen Institute for AI was established by Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder. It is currently led by Dr Oren Etzioni, who is a leading AI researcher. Founded in 2014, it is a non-profit research institute that was established with the aim of conducting high-impact AI research and development activities for the common good.

As per Crunchbase data, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence has raised a total of $17.9M across two funds, their latest being AI2 Incubator Fund I. This fund was announced on Jan 16, 2020, and raised a total of $10M.

Wadhwani AI

Founded by Indian-American tech entrepreneurs Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani, the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence is an independent not-for-profit research and development institute. They are using AI to solve problems faced by underrepresented communities in developing countries. Their team consists of world-renowned researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs from IITs, Microsoft, VMware, Stanford, etc.

In 2019, Google announced a $2 million grant as part of their AI Impact Challenge. Wadhwani AI had announced that they will be using this grant to create technologies to solve farming problems.

Others

There are research labs backed or incubated inside bigger corporations, which include names like Facebook AI Research (FAIR), Microsoft Research Lab, and Google AI, among others. These are actively funded/supported by their parent organisations. 

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Shraddha Goled
I am a technology journalist with AIM. I write stories focused on the AI landscape in India and around the world with a special interest in analysing its long term impact on individuals and societies. Reach out to me at shraddha.goled@analyticsindiamag.com.

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