Artificial intelligence has grown over the years with adoption in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and construction among other sectors. Research in AI is enabling these adoptions and all this depends on AI funding¹.
AI research has also accelerated in the last 5 years with more research papers published in 2020. Because of AI research, practical applications and use cases are emerging with the technology supporting automation and intelligent decisions. The capability of AI to derive intelligence more than humans makes this technology appealing to many researchers.
Funding of AI research has also accelerated with Congress approving AI related initiatives such as boosting funding in institutions of higher learning. The Biden administration² is currently working on an AI policy that will see the United States continue investing more in AI research, military applications and national security. The current AI funding¹ by the federal government is a good start but more needs to be done.
Achieving breakthroughs in AI technology requires federal funding of AI projects and there is optimism about increases in the fiscal year 2021. Despite the pandemic complicating government expenditure, analysts project an increased R&D investments³ in 2021 under the Biden administration.
With competition coming from Europe and China, the United States needs to rethink about AI for America to remain a global leader in technology. This paper will explore the current developments made by the U.S government in boosting AI research, failures and challenges facing advancement of AI funding.
More start-up funding in 2019 paved the way for increased AI research funding. Venture investments in AI companies is increasing as venture investors understand the potential of AI. The pandemic is a good example of AI benefits as medical workers use the technology and data to understand the outbreak. More AI research funding is expected as VC investors see AI in practical use such as saving lives during this COVID pandemic.
Outside the United States, China and Europe are investing in AI research with China leading the pack. South Korea and Japan have also made progress in AI research with both Asian countries allowing adoption of the technology across all sectors.
Equity deals regarding AI have also shot up in the last 2 years as investors forecast good performance of AI start-ups. Acquisition of AI start-ups is also rising and this is a positive trend for investments and mainstream adoption of AI techniques⁴.
Low AI research funding is the problem area given the benefits that AI could offer the world. The U.S federal government has faced criticism for lack of a clear AI strategy to guide the country as competition heats up on a global scale. As more federal agencies open pathways for AI research funding, this could provide a platform for more funding.
Current Federal AI Funding Initiatives
AI research funding has piqued the interest of the White House with panels created to advise the President on the state of AI, funding initiatives and quantum systems⁵.
The United States has not done much in accelerating research in #quantumcomputing and simulation technologies because of low budgets. The previous Trump administration did a good job getting news around about funding AI initiatives but with a new administration, it is time to get the work done and release funding.
Machine learning projects and energy experiments require good funding and the White House is creating new modalities to work with Congress to get more funding. National security is an area where the US government could benefit because of good funding by harnessing #artificialintelligence for assessment and response to national security threats.
The federal government is earmarking more AI research funding in the fiscal year 2021 with over $600M currently in action across various agencies. The State Department is among them where AI related projects are being undertaken in the security arena and ensuring that the United States achieves robust technology systems. The U.S government will increase the budgetary allocation for AI projects and this will open new opportunities for practical AI.
The coordination between the #WhiteHouse and Congress on AI initiatives proposes more resources towards AI research and within government departments. The Energy Department is currently using AI projects and research in quantum systems and this is good news for the AI industry. Investing in innovative AI research is top priority in the current federal initiatives to push for AI adoption. This will boost the competitiveness of the United States and create more opportunities for innovation.
Investments in AI research according to the National Science Foundation⁶ will increase with the government and private sector participating in adoption of the technology. Apple, Facebook and Oracle are some big tech companies leading AI funding in the private sector. More tech companies are investing heavily in AI research and the numbers could go up in 2021.
AI Research Funding rose in 2020
2020 was a good year for federal funding of AI research with the Department of Defense among beneficiaries around machine learning and AI projects. A CB insights report indicated more AI funding in 2020 with others including the Education Department over $2B in AI funding initiatives. Pentagon AI project received over $200M funding in 2020 and this could increase in the coming years.
The congressional agreement on the American AI strategy⁷ is on course and this could remove the current roadblocks in AI funding and accelerate practical AI applications. Around $900M is currently in use by government institutions conducting #AIresearch including the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The Pentagon is beefing up AI Funding
The Pentagon is increasing AI research funding with more funds released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency estimated at more than $1.5B. Based on the Pentagon’s AI strategy, the federal government will keep increasing funding to enable expansion of these AI projects and using deliverables to find solutions around national security and intelligence.
The recent DARPA funding of $2B is another development that will increase funding in AI research moving forward. Pentagon announced in the latest AI report about the need for increased research and development⁸ to enable the USA compete on the international stage with nations including South Korea getting ahead. Congressional support of the Pentagon AI research program is called for as countries around the world invest in artificial intelligence.
How Global Governments are spending on AI
Let us explore how countries around the world are spending on AI and their current initiatives.
South Korea is an emerging tech giant in Asia besides China with the country investing in AI programs for national security, manufacturing and maritime operations. The Korean government increased the last AI budgetary allocation compared to previous years as the country builds on the current success in AI technology.
Europe is boosting AI research with Germany, France, Ireland and Finland increasing AI investments. The European Parliament also released a set of guidelines around AI with more on ethical and transparent AI.
China on the other hand is revamping #R&D initiatives for AI. The budgetary allocation for AI is poised to surpass that of the USA as the country advances AI research across all sectors including education, agriculture and national security. China has also invested in AI research for health with the current pandemic a good example of robust technology currently used by the country.
Cross Border AI Research and Funding
The world should not forget the limits of AI technology and issues such as reducing harm and using AI for good. Ethical AI is an example of international calls for standards on AI usage by countries and limits. China has not shown good progress here with privacy invasion through technology increasing compared to the United States, Europe and Australia. Collaboration between nations on AI is critical for creating a single voice that respects human values such as trust, transparency and integrity.
When countries work together on AI initiatives, it becomes easier to tame the dark side of this technology and use it for human good. Government surveillance tactics speak volumes about the dangers of letting AI run amok in our society. The Biden administration is expected to rally countries around the world on responsible and #ethicalAI. At the same time, international collaboration on AI technology will harness exchange of ideas and reduce expenditure for implementing the technology.
The U.S Government needs to do more
The current progress on AI research is promising but more needs to be done. Research and development funding in AI has not done well with China doing better compared to the USA. There is stagnation by the U.S government in developing the right funding model for AI research and this could cost the country in the coming years.
From a legislation level, the Executive needs to work with Congress on creating and implementing AI initiatives followed by mapping progress and measuring productivity. Red tape in implementation of #AIprojects is a challenge and in 2021, the federal government should line up resources for AI funding, as this will boost our economy and national security. AI research should translate to practical AI and increasing funding will help us reach this goal.