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New initiative to lead industry innovation, social impact through AI

A collaboration between Cornell and r4 Technologies, a Connecticut-based artificial intelligence company, will develop and apply artificial intelligence solutions to structural challenges that have hindered growth and modernization, and will train a new generation of students to thrive in a data-driven world.

The Cornell-r4 Applied AI initiative, launched Dec. 6 with a panel discussion at Cornell Tech, will bring together cross-disciplinary scholars and industry experts to apply AI, data science, advanced math and leading-edge technology to help solve business and societal problems. The initiative will also focus on developing new courses that bring AI and data science to more students across the university.

Greg Morrisett

“Cornell University believes in the vast potential of applied AI to achieve breakthrough solutions in business and society,” said Greg Morrisett, dean of Computing and Information Science (CIS) and co-chair of the new initiative. “Our partnership with r4 Technologies puts us at the leading edge of academic discovery across crucial disciplines such as statistics, machine learning and optimization.”

Paul Breitenbach

As part of the initiative, selected research areas will be led by Cornell faculty and graduate student teams, who will work with r4 and industry partners. Initial research will focus on “farm to table” challenges in the food industry. The initiative plans to address problems in consumer retail and supply-chain management while looking at challenges to optimize the food chain to better align with predicted local demand patterns – improving profitability for producers and retailers while also reducing food waste.

“What makes this partnership unique is that it’s not just theoretical,” said Paul Breitenbach ’92, MBA ’95, founder and CEO of r4 and co-chair of the initiative. “It’s about the actual application of AI at scale – for education, for social good and for business.”

The partnership, between r4, CIS, the College of Arts and Sciences and Cornell Engineering, seeks to drive positive impact on societal and environmental challenges, identify new models of working that advance human potential and deliver better economic outcomes for large organizations and businesses. The initiative will also build industry partnerships and events such as an industry summit in spring 2019.

The initiative comes as the College of Arts and Sciences is updating its curriculum to explicitly include data science in its graduation requirements. The university will also create multidisciplinary masters’ program project teams that will tackle real-world problems with industry leaders and r4.

The initiative is governed by an advisory board from Cornell, the r4 Leadership Council and industry sponsors.

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Jeff Tyson