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NRF Singapore sets up Data Science Consortium and AI program with US$107 million investment for the next five years

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) will be investing up to S$105 million (about US$107.3 million) in building the city-state’s capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), with emphasis placed on finance, healthcare, and city management solutions.

Yaacob Ibrahim, the Singapore’s Minister for Communication and Information explained that artificial intelligence could help address major challenges, from managing health care issues in an aging society to improving traffic management during peak hours.

The new national program AI.SG, revealed yesterday during the annual InnovFest Unbound event, will see Singapore-based research institutes working together with AI startups and companies to grow knowledge in the space, create tools, and develop talent to boost the country’s artificial intelligence efforts.

Low Teck Seng, the CEO of NRF explains that “AI.SG builds on the current AI knowledge and capabilities that we have built up across our Singapore-based research institutions with our past R&D investments.”

The initiative will be driven by a government-wide partnership, comprising of the NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SGInnovate as well as the integrated Health Information System (IHiS).

AI.SG will also tap into the local community through networking events and hackathons. It will nurture a local community of doers and thinkers in AI by creating an environment with shared resources and facilities, including AI.SG software tools, open source frameworks, anonymised datasets and other AI high-performance computing resources.

Additionally, Yaacob also announced a second initiative, that is NRF will be setting up a Singapore Data Science Consortium (SDSC), in collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Nanyang Technological (NTU), the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) and the Singapore Management University (SMU).

The partnership between government and academia is expected to strengthen collaborative research links between Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), research institutes and the industry in data science R&D, in addition to developing a local talent pipeline for building a manpower base with deep science capabilities.

“AI and data science are key frontier technologies that the Singapore Government will harness and build capabilities in the longer run, such investments will enhance the economic opportunities for all Singaporeans,” explained Yaacob.

Ultimately, the two initiative aims to facilitate industry adoption of the latest cutting-edge data science and analytics technologies to address real-world challenges. NRF targets to establish 100 AI projects to solve real-world problems.

“We do not want to be simply adopters, we want to be creators, builders, we want to have an influential role, we want to shape what’s happening not just in ASEAN but in places around the world,” said Steve Leonard, the head of SGInnovate.

“R&D in Singapore has already gained international recognition, and there is tremendous momentum in areas around AI such as computer vision, natural language processing, and machine learning. AI.SG will serve as a powerful point of concentration of intellectual, physical and financial resources committed to working with AI. At SGInnovate, we work with entrepreneurial people focused on taking their ‘deep-tech’ research further, and we look forward to a rich pool of new AI-related opportunities to pursue,” he added.

Nonetheless, these initiatives will definitely bring together people to focus on this topic, whether it’s natural language understanding, computer vision, and analytics.

“In a way, the timing cannot be more perfect,” said AI.SG executive chairman Professor Ho Teck Hua. “I also see these two initiatives like they’re the turbocharged engines for the Smart Nation initiative that we’ve launched quite some time back. Both will give a lot of energy and new opportunites for us to do some extraordinary good. ”

By Vivian Foo, VCNewsNetwork

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