AsianScientist (May 5, 2017) – Under the auspices of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Singapore has launched a national program dedicated to advancing artificial intelligence (AI). Called AI.SG, the initiative will receive S$150 million (~US$107 million) of funding over the next five years.
The government-wide partnership involves NRF, the newly formed Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDG) under the Prime Minister’s Office, the Economic Development Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, SGInnovate and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). AI.SG is chaired by Mr. Tan Kok Yam, Deputy Secretary of SNDG, and Professor Ho Teck Hua, Executive Chairman of AI.SG and Deputy President (Research & Technology) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
“Through AI.SG, we intend to work with AI research performers, start-ups and companies to audaciously tackle tough challenges in areas such as transportation and urban management. We hope that the programme will be a stellar example of how a Smart Nation will use digital technology in an impactful way to improve citizens’ lives, and create new opportunities,” said Tan.
The three stated objectives of AI.SG are to apply AI to solving nation-wide challenges such as in healthcare, groom AI talent and encourage the adoption of AI in industry. In addition to working with start-ups and corporate laboratories, AI.SG aims to engage individuals through networking events, hackathons and shared facilities including software tools, anonymized datasets and high performance computing resources.
AI.SG will also work closely with the Singapore Data Science Consortium, a partnership designed to encourage collaboration between institutes of higher learning, research institutes and industry. Both nation-wide initiatives were announced by Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, at the opening ceremony of the InnovFest Unbound event on May 3, 2017.
Also led by Ho, the Consortium includes NUS, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Singapore Management University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). With an emphasis on engaging local businesses, the Consortium has identified six economic sectors of interest, namely: finance; healthcare; customer and retail; manufacturing; logistics; and transport.
“Data science is not just about capturing a large amount of data quickly and accurately. It is equally important to compute using that data to discover predictive and causal relationships, and create solutions to address real-world challenges. This is a tremendous endeavour that requires collaboration and contributions from a diverse community comprising scientists, engineers, domain experts, government agencies and end users,” Ho said.
The announcements of these nation-wide AI and data science initiatives follow the launch of new research centers at both NUS and NTU. The former Interactive and Digital Media Institute at NUS has been renamed the NUS Smart Systems Institute (SSI), repositioning it to focus on AI, big data analytics and applied research in areas such as augmented reality, virtual reality, Internet of Things and media technologies.
The Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DSAIR) at NTU, on the other hand, will be looking at fintech, edutainment and LED sensor applications. The Centre, which will receive S$8 million (~US$5.7 million) in funding from NTU over the next three years, has already attracted the attention of commercial partners such as PayPal and NVIDIA.