Wadhwani brothers to invest $30mn in AI research institute in Mumbai

Wadhwani AI, an artificial intelligence research institute set up to develop artificial intelligence solutions for social good, opened its first facility in Mumbai. Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally on Monday dedicated the institute to the nation.

Set up with support from Mumbai University, the institute commits itself to exploring AI solutions to widespread societal challenges.

Founded by Indian-American tech entrepreneurs Romesh Wadhwani and Sunil Wadhwani, the institute will be led by AI pioneer and founding MD of Microsoft Research India, P Anandan.

The Wadhwani brothers are committing $30 million to the institute over its first 10 years and will also be personally involved, providing their extensive experience in creating and scaling successful global businesses.

"Wadhwani AI is a prime example of how the public sector and the private sector can come together with good intentions to build a world-class institute, aimed at benefiting the poor," the prime minister said.

"Can we take the global lead on creating Artificial Intelligence that is less about making humans redundant and more about enhancing human abilities and expanding human capacities?'' he added.

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has accelerated in recent years, driven largely by easy access to tech platforms and tools, availability of large data sets, and compelling business opportunities in areas like finance, transportation and healthcare. This, however, has not helped in addressing social issues like removal of poverty, healthcare and public infrastructure.

Based in Mumbai, the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence (Wadhwani AI), is an independent non-profit research institute committed to using the power of AI to find solutions to problems across sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture, and infrastructure to accelerate social development in India and other emerging economies.

''Wadhwani AI is the first of its kind in the world - a non-profit research institute dedicated exclusively to applying AI for social good, to help improve the lives of millions. We will apply AI in all key domains such as education, public health, agriculture, infrastructure and financial inclusion. Success means bringing innovative solutions that achieve large-scale positive social impact. We hope this will transform how AI research is conducted and applied to help societies throughout the world,'' said Romesh Wadhwani, one of the founders.

Wadhwani AI is partnering with the government of Maharashtra for its mission to create AI solutions for social impact. The Maharashtra government will help the institute identify problems, and test and scale the solutions. Through its partnership with Mumbai University and other institutions, Wadhwani AI will help create a talent ecosystem in AI and Data Science.

''Artificial intelligence is a boon which can change the lives of the common man. AI has the potential to bring drastic changes to the lives of common people. I hope research by Wadhwani AI will improve the lives of people and would result in social welfare,'' Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

''Maharashtra plans to use this first-mover advantage in deploying AI for social good to pave the way for the Prime Minister's vision of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. We plan to prioritise agriculture, healthcare and education sector in charting our initial projects,'' added Kaustubh Davse, officer on special duty to chief minister of Maharashtra.

''AI has the power to make a difference in countless people's lives if applied to accelerating social development,'' said Sunil Wadhwani. ''We need the best minds of our generation working together to solve society's greatest challenges. We will be working with leading global institutions and researchers to address these challenges, and also build a deep talent pool of data scientists and AI researchers in India in the coming years to address our development needs.''

In addition to having its own research team, Wadhwani AI will be a hub for leading AI researchers around the world working on large-scale societal challenges.

''Non-profits and governments work every day to improve agriculture, education, public health and infrastructure. There are many interesting challenges and use cases that can benefit from the use of AI and there is lots of data that can be leveraged. That is where we can come in and help them find the patterns that underlie these problems, as well as ways to change them,'' said Wadhwani AI's CEO P Anandan. ''For instance, a nonprofit may know that rural schools tend to have high dropout rates, but we can help them discover if this stems from poorly translated educational materials, difficulty traveling to school, or because families need additional income - and then create solutions based on that insight.''

''University of Mumbai is committed to the capacity building of students in particular and the masses in general. We plan to introduce a Master's degree programme in Data Science to develop the human resources that would be required to take this venture of AI for social good ahead,'' said Dr. Devanand Shinde, vice chancellor, University of Mumbai.