On December 6, 2019, the University of Tokyo and SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) held a joint press conference to unveil the Beyond AI Institute, a research organization that will gather leading AI researchers from Japan and around the world. The institute will conduct both fundamental and applied research while envisioning the commercialization of research results in the form of joint ventures, technology transfers and contributions to existing businesses.
The Beyond AI Institute plans to operate on a scale of 20 billion JPY (185 million USD) with funding—based on investments from SoftBank Corp. and related companies over the next 10 years—and business profits that will be reinvested back into research.
“We're in the middle of a tidal change where AI is redefining and creating new industries,” said Junichi Miyakawa, SoftBank Corp.'s Representative Director & CTO. Pointing to the declining number of AI patents filed by universities and companies in Japan compared to those in the US and China, Miyakawa stressed that strong bonds between academia and businesses are key to revitalizing Japanese industry. “That's why we decided to form a team,” he said.
AI research themes to address social issues
In a fireside chat with the University of Tokyo's President, Makoto Gonokami, SoftBank Corp.'s Chairman Masayoshi Son noted that passion alone is not enough when pursuing new things. He said, “We'll provide not only funding and commercialization opportunities; we'll also provide a platform for further growth. We need to establish a type of ecosystem that produces a series of AI startups.”
To assist the business development process, the Beyond AI Institute will make use of the Collaborative Innovation Partnership (CIP) system, a new research and development vehicle created by the Japanese government to accelerate the formation of joint ventures between companies and universities.
The Beyond AI Institute aims to address various issues facing society through its AI research activities. The Hongo location, which will conduct fundamental research from the Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo, will look at themes such as AI-based trust building and understanding human intelligence. The Takeshiba location, which will conduct applied research within SoftBank's new Tokyo headquarters slated to open by 2021, will study data-driven medicine, optimized mobility and a broad range of other themes.
At the end of the event, Son stressed the importance of AI education. “More and more students are learning about AI at the University of Tokyo. It's important to set specific research themes for them so they can utilize AI to help save people's lives.”
- Press release: The University of Tokyo and SoftBank Corp. Agree to Establish the Beyond AI Institute
(Original article posted on December 6, 2019)
By SoftBank News Editors