Microsoft advances regional artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities through a partnership with Shanghai Xuhui District People’s Government and INESA Group leading to the establishment of Microsoft Research Asia-Shanghai and the Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Centre.
The agreement was signed during the World AI Conference 2018 in Shanghai, China by the Shanghai Xuhui District People’s Government, INESA and Microsoft.
“Digital transformation led by cutting-edge technologies such as AI is starting a new industrial revolution globally, and China has become the most innovative and dynamic market in the world today,” said Harry Shum, executive vice president, artificial intelligence and research group at Microsoft.
“With the opportunities brought about by digital transformation, Shanghai has leveraged its advantages and developed a clear plan for AI advancement.
“The city has created an ideal developmental environment and policy that support technology innovation and talent cultivation as well as the enablement of many compelling AI projects," Shum added.
The establishment of these two entities will lead to the promotion of AI technology and the industry’s growth in the Shanghai area through innovation cooperation.
“Microsoft is committed to providing an innovative platform and technological tools to its users and partners through the creation of an AI ecosystem that drives breakthroughs within China and in the world,” Shum said.
“With Microsoft Research Asia-Shanghai and the Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Centre, we hope to attract more talents from around the world, accelerate smart innovation, promote cooperative development with our partners, and jointly develop the future of AI,” he added.
Outside of Shanghai, China is quickly becoming an AI superpower with plans to lead the world in AI by 2030.
It is estimated that the deployment of AI will add an additional US$15.7 trillion to the global GDP by 2030 with China alone taking US$7 trillion of that total. This compares to US$3.7 trillion for North America, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Furthermore, in 2017, China accounted for 48 per cent of the world’s total AI startup funding compared to America’s 38 per cent.
Microsoft’s investment in China and Shanghai, in particular, is a strategic move to advance AI research, recruit local AI talent and leverage this projected growth.
“Xuhui District and Microsoft have successfully cooperated for a long time in projects such as Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai, innovation hubs in Caohejing Hi-Tech Park,” said Fang Shizhong, the mayor of Xuhui District.
“The establishment of Microsoft Research Asia-Shanghai and the Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Centre in Shanghai will further expand the depth and breadth of cooperation between Microsoft and Xuhui District, and will play an active role in bringing together talents, accelerating development, and leading innovation,” Fang added.
One of Microsoft’s largest Chinese partners, INESA provides connected system solutions, products and services specific to smart cities and building developments and along with Microsoft will jointly operate and manage the Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Centre.
The centre will provide local organisations with AI R&D platform services as well as training support based on Microsoft technologies, along with the opportunities to work with and learn from experienced domain experts.
“INESA, with its mission of leading the development of the information industry and building smart cities, is committed to becoming a provider and operator of smart city solutions,” said Cai Xiaoqing, president at INESA Group.
“The Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Centre builds upon the successful cooperation between the two parties over the years and aims to use AI research results to create a platform that develops applications,” added Xiaoqing.
“In addition, the partnership will promote the digital transformation and talent upgrade of government departments and enterprises, and jointly help Shanghai – and even China – to become a world-leading AI innovation source, model application site, industry centre, and an area of talent congregation.”
As a workspace and development platform for the implementation of large-scale AI projects conducted in conjunction with the government, industry, and research institutes, Microsoft-INESA AI Innovation Center will not set profit as its main goal.
“With 20 years of experience in advancing basic research and technology transformation, as well as leveraging our business presence in Shanghai, Microsoft Research Asia-Shanghai will strive to transform leading research results into Microsoft products, as well as application demonstration projects in Shanghai,” said Hsiao-Wuen Hon, corporate vice president, Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group, Microsoft Research Asia.
“This will make substantial contributions to improving abilities in AI technology innovation, developing the AI integration ecology, and strengthening the cultivation of AI talents.”
Microsoft has been a long-time investor in AI and continues to invest and build out its capabilities, recently acquiring Berkeley start-up Semantic Machines as the basis of a new conversational AI centre of excellence in California.