Grainger Engineering joins new AI Alliance to enhance open source technology

12/7/2023 Kristen Chandler

Written by Kristen Chandler

Members of the AI Alliance span across the globe. 
Members of the AI Alliance span across the globe. 

The Grainger College of Engineering is proud to join the AI Alliance, launched by IBM and Meta in collaboration with companies such as AMD, Dell Technologies and Intel. With a goal to pioneer the future of AI rooted in responsible and open innovation, this international community of researchers, developers and organizational leaders is committed to supporting and enhancing change in the AI technology landscape.

Grainger Engineering is no stranger to leading global transformations in AI that will change health, education, business and other fields forever. U.S. News & World Report ranks us in the top 5 of university artificial intelligence programs alongside Silicon Valley schools. The College has received $270 million in AI-related research expenditures since 2019, and a growing number of companies, national labs and funding agencies are looking to Grainger Engineering to chart the course for new AI technologies.

“This collaboration signifies a pivotal moment in our collective journey toward shaping the future of AI - something our College has been doing for decades,” said Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “By leveraging our legacy of excellence combined with our dedication to innovation, we aim to harness these advancements in ways that prioritize safety, diversity, economic opportunity and benefits to all.”

Members of the AI Alliance believe that open innovation is essential to develop and achieve safe and responsible AI that benefits society rather than a select few. Through this partnership, we envision:

  • Cutting-Edge Research: Collaborative efforts to push the boundaries of AI technology while prioritizing ethical considerations and safety protocols.
  • Knowledge Exchange: A platform for the exchange of ideas, fostering learning opportunities among students, faculty, industry peers and research partners.
  • Community Engagement: Empowering our community to actively participate in shaping the ethical framework of AI innovation.
    Paris Smaragdis, professor and associate head in the Computer Science department 
    Paris Smaragdis, professor and associate head in the Computer Science department 

Being part of the AI Alliance will not only help Grainger Engineering provide cutting-edge AI educational experiences to our students, but also to develop strongly vetted AI tools that will be available for everyone to use.

“Right now, we are recovering from the shock of discovering how well tools like ChatGPT can work. The public has reacted with unease with respect to how these models will be used moving forward. We, as a land-grant institution, have an obligation to educate the public now more than ever and improve protections as these open technologies develop,” said Paris Smaragdis, a Computer Science professor at Grainger Engineering.

Grainger Engineering and IBM are long-time partners in endeavors such as the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute, a $200 million investment primarily funded by IBM and designed to increase access to technology education and skill development to spur breakthroughs in emerging areas of technology including hybrid cloud and AI, quantum computing, accelerated materials discovery and sustainability. Three months ago, the partnership led to conversations on how to advocate for diversity and transparency in AI. These include the development of benchmarks and evaluation standards, fostering an AI hardware accelerator ecosystem and supporting exploratory AI research globally. 

Deming Chen, Electrical and Computer Engineering professor
Deming Chen, Abel Bliss Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

"We are already creating innovative AI work with IBM, so it’s a very natural fit for Grainger Engineering to join the Alliance through this experience with IBM. We need open foundation models, advanced testing and validation, benchmarking, and important regulatory policies to make sure AI development is done openly, safely, and transparently. Who better to tackle these challenges than more than 50 of the most leading-edge technological organizations in the world?” said Deming Chen, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor at Grainger Engineering.

The College plans to train students in the most advanced AI skills and capabilities through the Alliance's educational and work-force training goals. Grainger Engineering is the only Illinois university to be involved in the AI Alliance. 

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This story was published December 7, 2023.