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UW researchers join three national artificial intelligence institutes

July 29, 2021

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers across campus will harness artificial intelligence to promote sustainable food systems and advanced wireless networks as part of three national AI institutes that were announced July 29.

The three institutes are among 11 funded by the National Science Foundation. Each institute will receive $20 million for a total $220 million investment by NSF. Building off of seven institutes funded in 2020, the new program is meant to broaden access to AI to solve complex societal problems.

UW–Madison scientists are partners in three institutes:

Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE)

Led by Ohio State University, ICICLE is focused on making AI more accessible to improve agricultural sustainability. The UW–Madison team is led by Alfonso Morales, professor of planning and landscape architecture, and includes Song Gao, professor of geography, and Michelle Miller, associate director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.

ICICLE is applying AI to three domains: smart foodsheds, digital agriculture, and animal ecology. Analogous to watersheds, foodsheds define the geological, geographical and human elements that affect how, when and where food is grown and consumed. Digital agriculture seeks to use technology to improve the yield and efficiency of crops, while animal ecology focuses on the roles of animals in agriculture and the environment.

AI techniques can help address outstanding problems in these fields, such as by helping food producers better organize and time their deliveries to meet fluctuating demand.

Institute for Future Edge Networks and Distributed Intelligence (AI-EDGE)

Also led by researchers at Ohio State, AI-EDGE includes Robert Nowak, UW–Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering.

AI-EDGE will develop new AI tools and techniques to ensure that wireless networks are self-healing and self-optimized. These networks will make AI more efficient, interactive and privacy-preserving for applications in sectors such as intelligent transportation, remote health care, distributed robotics and smart aerospace. The institute is partially funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

Institute for Edge Computing Leveraging Next-generation Networks (Athena)

Led by Duke University, Athena aims to transform the design, operation and service of future mobile systems and networks. UW–Madison professor of computer sciences Suman Banerjee is part of a team of scientists, engineers, statisticians, legal scholars and psychologists from seven universities. Banerjee is joined by Bhuvana Krishnaswamy and Younghyun Kim, assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering at UW–Madison.

Athena researchers, also partially funded by the Department of Homeland Security, are committed to training a diverse workforce of edge computing and networking leaders driven to maintain ethics and fairness in AI. The institute will support collaboration and knowledge transfer to help turn emerging technical capabilities to new business models and entrepreneurial opportunities.

In addition to the NSF, the 11 institutes are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, Google, Amazon, Intel and Accenture.