Continued broad development of AI technologies and concepts require new approaches to collaboration between industry organizations and academia.




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SwissCognitiveIndustry and academia have collaborated in artificial intelligence research for decades, but in recent years the power balance in this relationship has shifted in ways that are detrimental to AI progress and the sustainability of the field.

Most existing arrangements between industry and academia are either “work for hire,” which often is too narrowly defined to attract the brightest minds in academia to participate, or “buy the lab,” which effectively end collaborations by hiring researchers away from academia and prevent the next generation of AI talent from receiving the education and research opportunities that will lead to AI progress in the future, cannibalizing the future pipeline to serve the needs of the present.

A new working model between industry and academia is needed, one in which stable, long-term industry-academic partnerships enable continued AI advancement while preserving our society’s capacity to conduct fundamental research and train future generations of AI experts.

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In a long-term partnership, academic and industry researchers must work collaboratively as equals, rather than industry merely sponsoring research or pulling faculty or students out of academia.

Instead of traditional top-down or single-organization decision-making, successful partnerships should be guided by more inclusive decision-making approaches – for example, through joint committees, with equal representation of academic and industry members, each of whom feels a strong responsibility to the collaboration and to the advancement of AI.

We believe our MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab collaboration offers a new model for engaging between academia and industry. Below are five key advantages to such a model, and an explanation of why it’s the surest path to transformational progress in AI research.

Complementary strengths

AI is exploding with new and expanding subfields, and conducting rapid and meaningful AI research demands cross-disciplinary knowledge, along

AI is exploding with new and expanding subfields, and conducting rapid and meaningful AI research demands cross-disciplinary knowledge, along with intense focus. Strong long-term partnerships between academia and industry are positioned to integrate a broad range of academic disciplines — from computer science, mathematics and logic to biology, linguistics, economics and even the arts — with industry’s real-world perspective, domain knowledge, and access to data. Furthermore, advances in AI demand new ideas and a creative, ambitious workforce, along with substantial computational and financial resources. With academia being a fertile source for the former and industry uniquely positioned to provide the latter, unifying the two takes full advantage of their complementary strengths. […]

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