Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative Targets COVID-19

March 27, 2020

The new Digital Transformation Institute will seek to develop artificial intelligence tools to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new research consortium jointly managed by UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is aiming to build artificial intelligence techniques that will help combat COVID-19.

The new Digital Transformation Institute ( DTI) is dedicated to accelerating artificial intelligence development to speed the pace of digital transformation of business, government, and society.

Members of the institute include; Microsoft Corporation; UIUC; UC Berkeley; Princeton University; the University of Chicago; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Carnegie Mellon University.

In its first call for research proposals, DTI is inviting scholars, developers, and researchers to use artificial intelligence to combat COVID-19 and advance the science for mitigating future pandemics. This is the first in what will be a series of bi-annual calls for Digital Transformation research proposals.

“The Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators, and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO of

“We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic. I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.” Digital Transformation Institute will provide up to 26 cash awards annually, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each. Topics for research awards may include machine learning and other AI methods that can mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as genome-specific COVID-19 medical protocols.

Awards could also include the design and sharing of clinical trials for collecting data on medications, therapies, and interventions; and the modeling, prediction, and simulation for understanding COVID-19 propagation and efficacy of interventions.

“We are collecting a massive amount of data about MERS, SARS, and now COVID-19,” said Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State.

“We have a unique opportunity before us to apply the new sciences of AI and digital transformation to learn from these data how we can better manage these phenomena and avert the worst outcomes for humanity. I can think of no work more important and no response more cogent and timely than this important public-private partnership.” will support the constant flow of new ideas and expertise provided by ongoing research, visiting professors and research scholars, and faculty and scholars in residence, many of whom will come from beyond the member institutions.

“This is about global innovation based on multinational collaboration to accelerate the positive impact of AI by providing researchers access to real world data and to massive resources,” said Jim Snabe, Chairman, Siemens. “This is exactly the kind of multinational public-private partnership that is required to address this critical issue.” DTI will focus its research on AI, machine learning, big data analytics, ethics, and public policy. The institute will support the development of new algorithms, data security, and cybersecurity techniques. In addition to the annual research awards, the institute will offer access to free Azure Cloud and C3 AI suite resources, awards for curriculum development, and grants to support published research.

“At UC Berkeley, we are thrilled to help co-lead this important endeavor to establish and advance the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT, and cloud computing,” said Carol Christ, Chancellor, UC Berkeley.

“We believe this Institute has the potential to make tremendous contributions by including ethics, new business models, and public policy to the technologies for transforming societal scale systems globally.”

Industry collaboratives have become a common response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just recently, private sector organizations including Amazon, athenahealth, MITRE, and others formed the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. The coalition is a joint effort to provide real-time data analytics to those on the front lines of the outbreak.

“Applying real-time data analytics and best practice guidance to a pandemic can flatten the curve of infection and change its course, as seen with Ebola and H1N1,” said Dr. Jay Schnitzer, MITRE’s chief technology and medical officer. DTI will work to find AI solutions to the worldwide pandemic quickly, applying novel innovations to reduce the impact of the virus.

“The Digital Transformation Institute, with its vision of cross-institutional and multi-disciplinary collaboration, represents an exciting model to help accelerate innovation in this important new field of study,” said Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“At this time of a global health crisis, the Institute’s initial research focus will be on applying AI to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and to learn from it how to protect the world from future pandemics. DTI is an important addition to the world’s fight against this disease and a powerful new resource in developing solutions to all societal challenges.”

The first call for proposals is now open, with a deadline of May 1, 2020. Researchers are invited to learn more about DTI and how to submit their proposals for consideration. DTI will announce the selected proposals by June 1, 2020.

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