Waterloo.ai gains $270k funding from Microsoft

Microsoft has announced a partnership with the University of Waterloo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute (Waterloo.ai), to include funding for one year with the potential to extend based on success.

The partnership with Waterloo.ai will provide $270,000 USD in funding for eight projects that Waterloo.ai proposed to Microsoft, as part of Microsoft’s $115 million USD investment through the AI for Good initiative.

The AI for Good programme aims to solve major world issues by partnering with / funding projects that match up with the goals of the programme.

In an interview with IT World Canada, Khalil Alfar, general manager of the Azure Cloud and enterprise business unit at Microsoft, said: “We’re really focused on providing funding, technology, and expertise, to not just individuals, but also non-profit organizations, academic organizations, and commercial organizations who are really tackling society’s big challenges.

“That’s our way of contributing to leveraging technology for the good of humanity.”

Waterloo.ai proposals

After putting out a call for proposals, Waterloo.ai fielded around 35 entries and, after its researchers studied the viability of the projects, finally presented them to Microsoft.

Chris McIntyre, the managing director of the Waterloo AI Institute, said: “When you look at artificial intelligence, it has a tremendous amount of potential in a number of areas.

“But when you really start to look at some big social issues in our world… whether it be in the realm of healthcare, whether it be in climate change environments, poverty, disaster management, a lot of them have a common thread. They’re very data-rich areas.

“Researchers want to work on challenging, meaningful problems. So when you look at combining AI and its technical possibilities… with some real problems in the world that are of great magnitude, it’s very interesting not only to the University of Waterloo and our mandate but also to the particular researcher.”

Khalil Alfar said: “We’re just really excited about the University of Waterloo and their reputation on driving groundbreaking innovation We are looking forward to bringing in the best of the best in Canada and internationally into the University and growing the next level of skill set in Canada. And that’s why we’re excited about the work they’re doing; bringing their mathematics and engineering students together to form this organization called Waterloo.ai. And we want to be part of it.”