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Micron announces $100M venture fund for AI and $1M AI research grant program

 

Yesterday at an inaugural AI event called Insight’18, held at the ultramodern Pier 27 overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge, Micron Technology announced a $100M venture fund and a $1M academic research grant program, both dedicated to AI. Insight’18, spearheaded by Micron, included a day’s worth of presentations and panels devoted to the latest AI developments.

Why did Micron create a high visibility event around AI? Quite possibly because the company has tired of processors getting all of the white-hot AI limelight in article after article and event after event. From the Micron perspective, it’s time for memory, ever present on any block diagram that includes a processor, to get more respect. (Now, re-read that sentence while imitating Rodney Dangerfield.)

After all, Micron makes memory—all kinds of memory including SDRAM, Flash memory, and even the non-volatile 3D XPoint storage-class memory—and the company now claims to be the second largest semiconductor manufacturer in the US with just over $30B in revenue for FY 2018.

At the event, Micron Technology announced plans to invest as much as $100 million worth of venture funds in startup companies working on AI, for use in myriad applications including medicine, agriculture, industrial control and monitoring, and, of course, self-driving vehicles. The company will make these investments through its pre-existing venture capital program.

Further, the company has earmarked 20% of the AI venture fund for companies that employ women and other under-represented minorities as exec-level leaders. This facet of Micron’s AI venture program seemed to be very important to CEO Sanjay Mehrotra and Sumit Sadana, Micron’s chief business officer, as they announced and discussed the program during the Insight’18 event.

As Mehrotra said during the event, Micron wants a front row seat when it comes to AI development. The per-seat price for that front row appears to be $100M.

Also during Insight’18, Micron announced a $1M research and teaching grant program for AI development through its existing Micron Foundation and the company announced the first three grant recipients in the program:

 

  • AI4All, a nonprofit organization that works to increase diversity and inclusion in AI education, research, development and policy. AI4All intends to grow the next generation of diverse AI talent through its AI Summer Camp, which is open to students in 9th through 11th grade. The camp gives special consideration to young women, under-represented groups, and families of lower socioeconomic status.
  • Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) Lab, which supports researchers and graduate students developing fundamental advances in computer vision, machine learning, natural-language processing, planning and robotics. BAIR is based at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering.

These three grant recipients are splitting half of the initial $1M in grant funds. The grants to BAIR and PHIND are $200,000 each and the grant to AI4All is for $100,000. Additional grants will be announced later.

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