C3.ai spotlights 21 projects focused on healthcare, energy efficiency, and climate security

The 21 groups will be awarded between $100,000 and $250,000 for one year and access to Azure Cloud computing resources.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

C3.ai's Digital Transformation Institute announced the 21 winners of their contest centered around healthcare, energy and climate-related projects. The company offered between $100,000 and $250,000 to groups that could start projects using AI and digital transformation to address COVID-19, climate security and energy efficiency. 

Out of the 52 submissions that came in since February, 21 were selected for the grants, with each focusing on efforts to "improve resilience, sustainability, and efficiency" using "carbon sequestration, carbon markets, hydrocarbon production, distributed renewables, and cybersecurity."

S. Shankar Sastry, a co-director of C3.ai DTI and a leading computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the world was now being threatened by the pandemic, powerful wildfires, rising seas, monster storms and other severe weather threats.

Marta Gonzalez, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is looking to create a platform that could collate more data about wildfires. The project will involve "crowdsourcing and very high-resolution remote sensing for an AI-driven fuel model identification; models of wildfire behavior, intensity, spread, informed by downscaled climate change predictions, historic catastrophic wildfires, environmental monitoring; and egress models that combine large-scale mobile phone data facilitated by data-driven optimization models and computation."

Another, from UC Davis assistant professor Da Yang, tracks the MaddenJulian Oscillation -- an irregular, month-long, planetary-scale rainfall pattern over the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans -- using machine learning and forecast models.

"Improving climate resilience will require profound changes powered by a new era of technology like those C3.ai DTI is supporting today," Sastry said. 

The program is managed and hosted by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in coordination with C3.ai and Microsoft. 

Thomas Siebel, CEO of C3 AI, said in a statement that the world's energy infrastructure needs to "undergo radical changes" in order to address the impact of global energy generation. 

"In the face of this crisis, the Institute is proud to bring together the best and brightest minds and provide direction and leadership to support objective analysis and AI-based, data-driven science for climate security," he said, adding that the institute gave out nearly $4.5 million to the 21 groups.

The winning proposals will also have access to wide variety of technological tools, including $2 million in Azure Cloud computing resources, up to 800,000 supercomputing node hours on the Blue Waters petascale supercomputer at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, up to 25 million computing hours on supercomputers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, as well as free, unlimited access to the C3 AI Suite hosted on the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

The Digital Transformation Institute is receiving significant financial support from C3.ai, which is pitching in more than $57 million over the first five years of operation and Microsoft, which has donated $310 million as well as free use of Microsoft Azure computing, storage, and technical resources.

The ten universities involved in the institute include the University of California, Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carnegie Mellon University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Princeton University, Stanford University, and University of Chicago. 

Editorial standards