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New York to Lead in the Race for AI With New Consortium Development

By Angelina Ochoa | February 5, 2024

Photo Credit: geralt on Pixabay

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the development of an AI consortium, aimed to make New York the National Leader in AI research and innovation. The main objective of this coalition, which was announced on Jan. 8, 2024, is to promote research and development in a responsible manner, create new jobs, and dive deeper into opportunities with AI that are geared towards the public good.

Seven of New York’s leading universities and research institutions will be taking part in this initiative. This includes Columbia, Cornell University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York (SUNY), and the City University of New York (CUNY). In addition to this is the Simons Foundation, which is known to show its support for basic science through grant funding and assistance for research and public engagement. The Simon Foundation’s Flatiron Institute is composed of many scientists who work together to propel research by way of computational methods such as data analytics, theory, modeling, and stimulation.

Computing resources that are compatible with AI systems tend to be very high in expenses and difficult to access. These needed resources are largely owned by large technology companies, who have a monopoly on the AI development ecosystem and resources. Due to this imbalance, the opportunity with artificial intelligence is extremely limited to researchers, public interest organizations, and small companies. The main aim of Empire AI is to connect these two sectors with the intention of benefitting public interest in New York State. 

According to Forbes Magazine, artificial intelligence is projected to help in the job sector. This growth includes the fact that artificial intelligence has the capability to automate its own systems, permitting workers to zone in on design, quality control, and management tasks. In regards to the ability of artificial intelligence to compute multitudes of data, there is a need for workers to be able to learn the skills necessary to accurately interpret what is generated by the intelligence system. Careers involving machine learning engineers, data scientists, as well as specialized researchers are projected to be needed when it comes to developing AI systems.

“The Empire AI consortium will be transformative: Bringing jobs and opportunity to New York and making us a global leader in this groundbreaking sector. Together with our partners in academia and the private sector, we’ll harness the power of artificial intelligence and ensure this technology is being used for the public interest,” said Governor Kathy Hochul.

Under the direction of the Governor, the Office of Information Technology Services has issued its policy regarding utilization of AI. This policy sets the foundation of the principles by which state agencies are permitted to analyze and adopt AI systems to serve New Yorkers. Some of these goals include helping people match with jobs, deliver benefits more efficiently, exploring accessibility tools, and recognizing and diminishing cyber threats. The policy recognizes that research and studies conducted on artificial intelligence is newly discovered, and provides that proper action will be taken if any risks with current AI systems arise.

“The establishment of the first-ever statewide policy governing AI will serve as a roadmap to leverage this rapidly emerging technology to find maximum benefit while mitigating risk, and complement the extraordinary work our employees are already doing to benefit the people of New York,” said Dru Raie, New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer and Director.

Allowing for research and development will also assist educational institutions in fostering AI geared startups, which would contribute to job growth in the future by allowing individuals to build the foundation for a career in exploring this new field. Collaboration between world-class research institutions will permit a greater chance to achieve efficiencies of scale that would otherwise be impossible if only a single university was involved. Also, with all of these universities involved, there is the hope that this research will be enticing for top ranked faculty and promote the expansion of educational opportunity. There is a strong emphasis on responsible use with artificial intelligence, specifically to strengthen the state economy and national security. 

“Governor Hochul’s Empire AI initiative will put crucial resources in the hands of SUNY’S extraordinary researchers and educators. These cutting edge scientific tools will be utilized to both spur innovation, and establish best practices for the ethical use of AI’s transformative power. SUNY is proud to lead the charge in this emerging field, and to be part of Governor Hochul’s nation leading consortium,” said SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr.

This initiative will be funded by over $400 million dollars put together by public and private investment. $275 million has been contributed from New York State in the form of grants and other funding, with another $125 million stemming from founding institutions and other private investors including the Simons Foundation as well as Tom Secunda, the co-founder of both Bloomberg LP and the Secunda Family Foundation, which provides millions of dollars a year in grants dedicated to conservation, healthcare, scientific advancement, and many other causes.

“Empire AI is an incredible step forward to ensure our state and nation can harness, understand, and thoughtfully put to work the latest in artificial intelligence and computation to explore new frontiers and serve all New Yorkers. I am grateful for the Governor’s leadership and the State’s partnership to bring this to reality. It will dutifully serve a generation of researchers and bring hope and opportunity to all,” said Tom Secunda.

 On Jan. 26, 2024, Governor Hochul announced the University at Buffalo as the statewide location for Empire AI, the formal name for this projected institution. The University at Buffalo is a SUNY flagship, and possesses faculty expertise that is able to leverage the vast possibilities of AI to solve issues facing both the state and the world, ranging over a vast array of topics such as medicine, education, finance, social justice, and sustainable technologies. 

“We are delighted that the Governor is recognizing UB’s longstanding national and international leadership in AI and data science with this momentous designation, which will make UB – as the home of Empire AI – a premier resource center for AI research and innovation,” said University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathy.

Notably, the university is also ranked #1 in the state through both public and private research institutions in securing cyberinfrastructure program funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

There has been a surge of proactivity in technology development and further research within the state. This past July, Governor Hochul made the announcement that $31.5 million dollars had been awarded to New York State Pathways in Technology in the form of funding to adequately prepare New York students for high skill jobs in technology related fields. Her efforts have also been recognized in schools, as ground has been broken in The Syracuse Science, Technology, Arts, and Math High School, which is Central New York’s first regional technical high school. 

Furthermore, other projects Hochul has taken on include bringing companies such as Micron and TTM technologies to New York and investing in the concept of advanced semiconductor research and manufacturing in the capital.


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