US announces $1 billion research push for AI and quantum computing

The US government is announcing $1 billion in new funding for multidisciplinary AI and quantum computing research hubs today, according to multiple reports. A total of 12 hubs will be funded, each embedded within different agencies of the federal government. Their work will span a diverse range of topics, from using machine learning for atmospheric and ocean science, to speeding up high-energy physics simulations with quantum systems.

The investment is part of a slow push from the White House to fund emerging technologies. Many policy advisors have worried that America is falling behind in AI and quantum research compared to rivals like China, and warn that these technologies are instrumental not only for economic development but also national security.

It’s extremely difficult to make a fair comparison of US and Chinese spend on technology like AI as funding and research in this area is diffuse. Although China announced ambitious plans to become the world leader in AI by 2030, America still outspends the country in military funding (which increasingly includes AI research), while US tech companies like Google and Microsoft remain world leaders in artificial intelligence.

The Trump administration will likely present today’s news as a counterbalance to its dismal reputation for supporting scientific research. For four years in a row, government budgets have proposed broad cuts for federal research, including work in pressing subjects like climate change. Only the fields of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, with their overt links to military prowess and global geopolitics, have seen increased investment.

“It is absolutely imperative the United States continues to lead the world in AI and quantum,” said US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios ahead of today’s announcement, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The future of American economic prosperity and national security will be shaped by how we invest, research, develop and deploy these cutting edge technologies today.”

Some $625 million of today’s funding will go to research involving quantum information sciences in five centers linked to the Department of Energy (DOE). A further $140 million will be invested in seven AI initiatives, two overseen by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and five by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Private tech companies, including IBM and Microsoft, are contributing $300 million in the form of “technology-services donations,” reports the WSJ, likely meaning access to cloud computing resources.