Schmidt Futures announced today that it was investing $148 million to fund the Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship program. With this newest funding, Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy, has now provided a total of $400 million to support the development of artificial intelligence (AI) for scientific discovery for other advances in technology and engineering fields.
According to the announcement, the new funding will initially support about 160 postdoctoral fellows at nine universities around the world to learn and apply AI methods to their research.
The fellowship is expected to expand to more institutions and countries in the future. Each funded university will annually select a new cohort of as many as 20 fellows for up to six years, and they will provide advanced AI training, research support, and professional development to help build a global network of AI-trained scientists.
The fellowships will be awarded to early-career scientists working in a range of disciplines – creating new therapeutic drugs, detecting some of the faintest objects in the solar system, and helping produce and store energy more efficiently. The program extends the tradition of Schmidt Futures supporting and advancing cutting-edge, interdisciplinary science.
According to Stuart Feldman, Chief Scientist of Schmidt Futures, “The Fellowship will provide these postdoctoral fellows with the advanced tools to increase the scope and speed of their research while discovering new and innovative use cases for AI within their field and create an ecosystem of scientific networks that will support them and their work.”
The initial cohort of universities includes:
● University of Toronto
● Nanyang Technological University
● National University of Singapore
● University of Oxford
● Imperial College London
● Cornell University
● University of California, San Diego
● University of Chicago
● University of Michigan
“Scientific innovation today is too often defined by new use cases for existing technologies or refining previous advancements, rather than the creation of entirely new fields of discovery,” said Eric Schmidt. “This is why we need to accelerate the next global scientific revolution – by supporting broad and deep incorporation of AI techniques into scientific and engineering research.”
“AI is already revolutionary—-but it is not yet as accessible, equitable or interdisciplinary as it needs to be,” according to Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president of the Schmidt Family Foundation. “By supporting postdoctoral candidates around the world in fields beyond computer science, we hope to create a community that can develop and improve this technology and find novel ways to apply it in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.”
The mission of Schmidt Futures is to join researchers together in networks to develop and test their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. Among its programs are the Schmidt Science Fellows, considered to be one of the most prestigious scientific postdoctoral awards in the world.
Schmidt Science Fellows receive postdoctoral support for either one or two years with an annual stipend of $100,000 along with individualized mentoring and participation in the program’s Global Meeting Series, which provides training, introductions to new concepts, visits to leading interdisciplinary scientific centers, and opportunities to engage with thought-leaders from science, business, policy, and society.
Feldman believes that while there are already great examples of scientists using AI techniques in research, the broad use of AI for scientific discovery is still at an early stage. “AI ought to be a very common toolkit and an advanced mindset for many scientists,” he said. “To accelerate that impact, the purpose of this new postdoc program is to assist a large number of young scientists to thoughtfully experiment and adopt new uses of AI thinking and technology at an early stage in their careers, the period where they are most energetic, knowledgeable, and driven to distinguish themselves scientifically.”
In order to achieve that vision, the new postdocs will be used to create academic networks at several of the best science universities over the next half dozen years. “We expect them to excel, and then broadly spread their ideas for AI as a catalyst for scientific discovery as they move around the world to their next positions,” Feldman said. “At that point, this program will have made a broad and major contribution towards accelerating scientific knowledge and its positive applications.”