IBM to create artificial intelligence lab in Albany

SUNY Poly research center part of $2B statewide effort to create new technology
SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Albany campus is shown in this undated image posted by the college.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Albany campus is shown in this undated image posted by the college.

ALBANY — IBM will spend more than $2 billion to expand its activities statewide, including creation of a new center at SUNY-Polytechnic Institute’s Albany campus to research artificial intelligence.

The company and state officials announced the plan Thursday, and hailed it as a step that will keep New York — particularly Tech Valley — a hub of research into cutting edge technology. 

The AI Hardware Center will be devoted to artificial intelligence-focused computer chip research, development, prototyping, testing and simulation. IBM is recruiting corporate collaborators for the venture on Fuller Road in Albany; tech industry giants Applied Materials, Samsung and Tokyo Electron Limited already have signed on. 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and its supercomputer lab also will be part of the effort.

“New York has always been at the forefront of emerging industries, and this private sector investment to create a hub for artificial intelligence research will attract world-class minds and drive economic growth in the region,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release.

The state said Thursday that IBM will provide at least $30 million worth of cash and in-kind contributions for AI research across the SUNY system, matched by $25 million from SUNY. Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency, will provide $300 million over five years to the Research Foundation for SUNY to purchase and install tools to support the AI Hardware Center.

Meanwhile, IBM will expand its partnership with SUNY Poly at the Center for Semiconductor Research in Albany, and extend its expiration from 2021 to at least 2023.

The AI Hardware Center is expected to attract new companies and federal research projects to the state while creating hundreds of new jobs.

In a company blog post Thursday, Mukesh Khare, IBM’s vice president of semiconductor and AI hardware, said AI holds great potential and demands great computing power — more than current technology can provide. Progress will require “significant changes in the fundamentals of systems and computing design,” he wrote.

“The IBM Research AI Hardware Center will be the nucleus of a new ecosystem of research and commercial partners collaborating with IBM researchers to further accelerate the development of AI-optimized hardware innovations,” he added.

Cuomo’s news release painted Thursday’s announcement as the next step in the 20-year industry-government-academic partnership that led to evolution of what is called Tech Valley. That moniker was initially an optimistic or even fanciful branding of the vaguely defined region up and down the Mohawk and Hudson valleys from Albany, but it has proved accurate, with creation of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars worth of economic activity in the nanotechnology and semiconductor sectors.

Khare wrote that IBM will be collaborating with RPI at RPI’s Center for Computational Innovations in North Greenbush: “Working through the Center, IBM and its partners will advance a range of technologies from chip level devices, materials, and architecture, to the software supporting AI workloads.”

John Kolb, RPI’s vice president for information services and technology, said in a news release: “Our partnership with New York state builds on the deep expertise Rensselaer has in artificial intelligence, data analytics and computation. The work we do together will keep New York in the forefront of next generation computing.”

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