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On The Heels of Expanding The National Science Foundation In The CHIPS & Science Bill And Delivering The Largest $$$ Increase For The Agency Ever, UB Receives First NSF AI Institute Award of 2023 And The First For New York State

Reps Says New NSF- And Department Of Education-Backed AI Institute At UB Will Help Develop Cutting-Edge Education Technology To Help Children With Speech And Language Disorders Communicate 

Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins: Buffalo Will Help Lead America In AI Innovation For Childhood Education And Speech Pathology   

After Schumer reauthorized and expanded the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of his CHIPS and Science Act and just secured the largest dollar increase in history for the agency, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Brian Higgins today announced that the University at Buffalo will receive $20 million to establish a National Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for transforming education for children with speech and language processing challenges. This is the first federal AI Institute awarded this year, and the first New York State has ever received. The representatives said this major federal investment will supercharge the growing innovation economy in Western New York, support good-paying research jobs, and help spur critical innovations in speech language pathology so children can have better access to education.

“The University at Buffalo is leading New York and our nation in developing major innovations in education technology, and now Buffalo will host NY’s first ever National AI Research Institute to transform education for children who struggle to communicate. This major federal investment will help bring technology into the classroom to ensure all children receive the help they need with speech and language processing challenges – all thanks to the research of Buffalo scientists,” said Senator Schumer. “This means good-paying research jobs, a stronger tech workforce, and more cutting-edge innovations developed right here in Western New York. I am proud to deliver this $20 million to UB to help harness the power of AI to help families and children across America get access to the education they need.”

Schumer added, “Awards like this that boost the Western New York economy and improve lives through technological innovation, are exactly why I fought so hard to reauthorize and expand the NSF through my CHIPS and Science bill and then to deliver the largest increase in history for the agency to have even more federal investment at the ready to supercharge Western New York’s innovation economy. Many are now recognizing what I have long known that Buffalo has all the ingredients to be a global scientific research and tech hub, and this federal grant is one of many more that will come from the NSF and other innovation program funding increases I fought for to ensure the future of technology is made in Upstate New York.”

“This historic investment will help the world-class researchers at the University at Buffalo harness the power of artificial intelligence to provide life-changing help to children with speech and language processing disorders,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to have fought to pass the CHIPS & Science bill to expand the NSF and deliver this $20 million investment in our kids, and I will keep fighting for federal dollars to support scientific innovation, develop Western New York’s tech workforce, and support those with disabilities.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for this region to lead on a project critical to the development and future of our children,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “The AI4ExceptionalEd Institute, led by UB, will help with early detection and save time and resources, so Speech Language Pathologists can focus on providing direct services. And the award couldn’t come at a better time as we see an increased need in part due to pandemic-related isolation and delays.”

“We want to thank U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins for their longstanding support of federally funded university research”, said UB President Satish K. Tripathi . “Time and again they have demonstrated how deeply they value the ability of academic research to solve real-world problems, and their commitment is creating opportunities for people across our state and nation to thrive.”

Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins explained that over 3.4 million children need speech- and language-related services in school systems across America, but resource shortages and the pandemic have exacerbated this problem, making it hard for children to get the help they need to address speech issues they may have in school. The new AI Institute at UB will be a partnership between the NSF and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Special Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences, with each agency contributing $10 million to directly address this problem. 

The representatives said the newly created AI Institute for Transforming Education for Children with Speech and Language Processing Challenges will use the latest in AI technologies to address this gap and spur innovations to help enhance the understanding of children's speech and language development and bolster services so more children have access to the resources they need to learn and communicate.

A full project description can be found here.

The delegation has a long history of fighting to increase federal investment in innovative research and technology development in Upstate New York, and Western NY specifically. Earlier this year, Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins passed the historic CHIPS and Science Act, which makes a generational investment in innovation, manufacturing, and research and development in the U.S., including the expansion of the NSF for more investment in research in key technology areas like AI.

Most recently, in the just passed end-of-year spending bill the members supported $10.8 billion in federal investment for key programs in the CHIPS and Science Act, including $9.87 billion for the National Science Foundation, an over $1 billion increase, the largest ever for the program, which makes awards like today’s possible and will spur even greater investment in the future.

The omnibus also included $500 million to begin implementation of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (“Tech Hubs”) Program. This funding will provide planning grants and an initial round of implementation awards to create regional technology hubs, focusing on economic development, job creation, and expanding U.S. innovation capacity. This is a program was created in the CHIPS and Science bill, specifically with places like Upstate NY in mind, and will build on the $25 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge award the reps secured for Western New York last year to strengthen the region’s manufacturing workforce and make sure the future of technology is made in America, and specifically in Upstate New York. 

Since 2020, the NSF, in partnership with other agencies, has funded 19 AI Institutes across the country totaling $240 million; you can find other projects listed here.