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January 8, 2024

Governor Hochul Unveils Fifth Proposal of 2024 State of the State: Empire AI Consortium to Make New York the National Leader in AI Research and Innovation

Governor Hochul Unveils Fifth Proposal of 2024 State of the State: Empire AI Consortium to Make New York the National Leader in AI Research and Innovation
Over $400 Million in Public and Private Funding Committed to Create ‘Empire AI'
Seven of New York's Leading Universities and Research Institutions Will Join Consortium to Promote Responsible Research and AI Opportunities Focused on Public Good
New Policy Establishes Practices for Responsible AI Use by State Agencies

This release was originally distributed by the Governor's Press Office. The original can be viewed on the Governor's website.

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the creation of a consortium to secure New York's place at the forefront of the artificial intelligence transformation. The consortium, named Empire AI, will create and launch a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence computing center in Upstate New York to be used by New York’s leading institutions to promote responsible research and development, create jobs, and unlock AI opportunities focused on public good. Governor Hochul also released a new policy to ensure agencies within state government understand how to responsibly harness the opportunity of AI technology to better serve New Yorkers.

“Since the days of the Erie Canal, New York has always led the nation on technology and innovation,” Governor Hochul said. “The Empire AI consortium will be transformative: Bringing jobs and opportunity to New York and making us a global leader in this groundbreaking sector. Together with our partners in academia and the private sector, we’ll harness the power of artificial intelligence and ensure this technology is being used for the public interest.”

Access to the computing resources that power AI systems is prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain. These resources are increasingly concentrated in the hands of large technology companies, who maintain outsized control of the AI development ecosystem. As a result, researchers, public interest organizations, and small companies are being left behind, which has enormous implications for AI safety and society at large. Empire AI will bridge this gap and accelerate the development of AI centered in public interest for New York State. Enabling this pioneering AI research and development will also help educational institutions incubate the AI-focused technology startups of the future, driving job growth.

Empire AI will be a consortium that includes seven founding institutions—Columbia, Cornell University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY), and the Simons Foundation. By increasing collaboration between New York State’s world-class research institutions, Empire AI will allow for efficiencies of scale not able to be achieved by any single university, empower and attract top notch faculty and expand educational opportunity, and give rise to a wave of responsible innovation that will significantly strengthen our state’s economy and our national security. The University of Buffalo is under consideration as a potential site.

Bringing together AI researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and others, the initiative will be funded by over $400 million in public and private investment. This includes up to $275 million from the State in grant and other funding, and more than $125 million from the founding institutions and other private partners including the Simons Foundation and Tom Secunda. The Simon Foundation’s Flatiron Institute is a community of scientists working to advance research through computational methods, including data analysis, theory, modeling and simulation. Tom Secunda is co-founder of Bloomberg LP and the Secunda Family Foundation, which provides millions of dollars a year in grants to conservation, healthcare, scientific advancement and other causes.

The Governor has also directed the Office of Information Technology Services to issue a first-of-its-kind AI Policy, which can be found here. The Policy establishes the principles and parameters by which state agencies can evaluate and adopt AI systems to better serve New Yorkers, including for example, helping to match people with jobs, more efficiently delivering benefits, exploring accessibility tools, and identifying and mitigating cyber threats. The Policy will also ensure agencies remain vigilant about evaluating any risks of using AI systems and protecting against unwanted outcomes.

Today’s announcements build on Governor Hochul’s commitment to making New York a leader in cutting-edge technology development, bringing companies like Micron and TTM Technologies to the state and investing in advanced semiconductor research and manufacturing in Albany. Governor Hochul has also advanced projects to get technology into New York’s schools. In December, the Governor broke ground on the Syracuse Science, Technology, Arts and Math High School — Central New York’s first regional technical high school. In July, Governor Hochul announced New York State Pathways in Technology had been awarded $31.5 million dollars in funding to prepare New York students for high-skill jobs in technology.

New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer and Director Dru Rai said, “The establishment of the first-ever statewide policy governing AI will serve as a roadmap to leverage this rapidly emerging technology to find maximum benefit while mitigating risk, and complement the extraordinary work our employees are already doing to benefit the people of New York. Under the leadership of Governor Hochul, we are proud to play an important role in the state’s next phase of AI, and these guidelines will ensure we do so fairly, responsibly and transparently.”

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, “Governor Hochul’s EmpireAI initiative will put crucial resources in the hands of SUNY’s extraordinary researchers and educators. These cutting-edge scientific tools will be utilized to both spur innovation, and establish best practices for the ethical use of AI’s transformative power. SUNY is proud to lead the charge in this emerging field, and to be part of Governor Hochul's nation-leading consortium.”

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, “New York’s higher education institutions, including CUNY, have long been leaders in research and scholarship and this new initiative and computational facility will allow us to collectively advance and utilize AI technology and create a national model for this work. I’m grateful to Governor Hochul for her leadership and to partners like the Simons Foundation whose investment in Empire AI will allow CUNY to participate in this effort and continue elevating the transformative power of research for the public good.”

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said, “The vision for Empire AI is to provide the academic research community in New York with a state-of-the-art computational facility that supports cutting-edge research. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for her bold vision to ensure that academic institutions in New York State can remain competitive and forward-looking as this fast-moving technology continues to transform our lives. Columbia is thrilled to be part of this initiative.”

Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack said, “I am excited to see the development of this shared computing facility, which will fast-track cutting-edge research and responsible AI tools to the benefit of all New Yorkers. As artificial intelligence promises to transform our economy, accelerate medical breakthroughs, and offer unprecedented tools for research, it is imperative that academic research institutions like Cornell partner to optimize AI technology in service of the public good. I especially want to thank Governor Hochul for a groundbreaking approach that will unlock pioneering AI research by and with Cornell faculty, and put New York at the forefront of artificial intelligence innovation.”

New York University President Linda G. Mills said, “Scientific discovery and innovation across various fields is the product of hard work and collaboration, and is increasingly fueled by access to ever greater computing power. NYU is excited to join our fellow academic partners across the city and state to ensure Empire AI helps New York remain one of the world’s leading tech capitals and at the forefront of AI technology. We also thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership and commitment to this kind of long-term investment, which enables great universities to conduct important research and, in turn, to contribute to New York’s prosperity, create new jobs and new economic sectors, and secure New York State’s tech leadership position well into the future.”

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Martin A. Schmidt said, “Since our founding 200 years ago, our mission at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been to advance technological discovery for the benefit of all. Now, in the century to come and as an inaugural member of Empire AI, we will continue that mission by further exploring how artificial intelligence can improve everyone’s lives. We applaud Governor Hochul’s vision to bring together the state’s foremost research institutions to realize tangible applications of AI that are pioneering, powerful and safe.”

Simons Foundation President David Spergel said, “The Simons Foundation is excited to be a partner in building this new AI facility that will enable researchers at CUNY, the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute and other NY State partners to have access to cutting edge facilities.”

Bloomberg LP Co-Founder and Vice Chairman Tom Secunda said, “Empire AI is an incredible step forward to ensure our state and nation can harness, understand, and thoughtfully put to work the latest in artificial intelligence and computation to explore new frontiers and serve all New Yorkers. I am grateful for the Governor's leadership and the State's partnership to bring this to reality. It will dutifully serve a generation of researchers and bring hope and opportunity to all.”

Tech:NYC President & CEO Julie Samuels said, “Empire AI is exciting because it firmly places our state at the epicenter of AI development. By bringing together some of the country’s leading research institutions, along with private sector partners, we’re ensuring that access to world-class computing power is shared across global companies, non-profit institutions, and academic experts in New York. AI technologies are poised to transform the ways we live and work, and these partnerships are key to generating the flywheel effect of groundbreaking innovation and entrepreneurship across the state. With Empire AI, we’re pioneering safe, equitable, and accessible AI innovations that will benefit every corner of New York’s economy.”