The National Science Foundation (NSF) is looking to fund up to five new National AI Research Institutes that will specialize in AI for astronomical sciences, AI for discovery in materials research, and strengthening AI technologies, NSF wrote in a recent solicitation.

The agency, in partnership with key Federal agencies and private corporations, plans to dish out $100 million in fiscal year (FY) 2024 and 2025 for five new institutes that will foster “long-term, fundamental research in AI.”

NSF will award approximately $4 million per year for four to five years to a handful of eligible entities that win the competition, which is open to institutions of higher education as well as nonprofit and non-academic organizations.

NSF’s program is a partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Capital One, the Simons Foundation, and Intel.

NSF said the primary goal of an AI institute in astronomy is to “bring together astronomy and AI experts to tackle important challenges in astronomy, as well as the advances in AI that are needed to overcome these challenges.”

“An AI institute will serve as a hub and resource for the broader astronomical community by making tools publicly available and by promoting the education and training of the astronomical community in AI methods,” the solicitation adds.

A successful materials AI institute, NSF said, will transform the materials discovery landscape, enable new AI-based capabilities, and be responsive to societal challenges and industrial needs.

The final category of funding will promote the development of next generation AI systems that have been strengthened to provide greater usefulness, consistency, and robustness by exhibiting both the high performance of narrow AI and the general adaptability of strong AI.

The agency will accept proposals in the area of AI for astronomy through Oct. 31. For the other two categories, proposals are due by Jan. 12, 2024.

The NSF announced $140 million of fresh funding back in May for seven new National AI Research Institutes to put top scientific and research focus on a diverse set of uses for AI technology ranging from education, climate science, and cybersecurity.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.