NSF Center for Big Learning Kicks Off

After the initial announcement of the launch of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Big Learning (CBL), things really got underway with the kickoff meeting May 31 and June 1. Held at UF’s Emerson Alumni Hall, the meeting brought together industry partners and academics from all over the world. Participants celebrated the opening of the center while beginning to visualize its future and scope of work. Opening remarks were provided by Elias Eldayrie, UF Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO), followed by Dr. Andy Li, center director, who provided the background, history, and vision for the CBL.

Center Director Dr. Andy Li

One measure of the depth and complexity of the work in which the center will engage was the fact that there were more than 30 project proposals, all presented on the first day of the meeting. In the interests of time, each presentation was limited to five minutes with an additional two minutes for questions. Projects were evaluated by Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) members in real time, using an online system which also allowed project presenters to respond directly to IAB comments and concerns. Project proposal titles are available here.

The center’s vision is creating intelligence towards intelligence-powered society. As an NSF IUCRC, the center is a collaborative effort among universities, large and small companies, state and government agencies, and other organizations for the purpose of conducting pre-competitive research of shared value. The CBL is the first NSF center dedicated to deep learning models and algorithms, systems and platforms, and high-impact applications in business, health, IoT, and security. The center is comprised of four official sites: the University of Florida, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Oregon.

Dr. Dmitri Perkins, NSF program director

The center has been officially awarded by NSF as a Phase I IUCRC Center for five years. Dmitri Perkins, NSF program director, was on hand to provide some deep background on the IUCRC program and its value. Over the more than 40 years of its existence, the program aims to grow U.S. innovation capacity by developing long-term partnerships among industry, academe, and government. IUCRCs leverage NSF funds with industry to support and train the next generation workforce within a global context.

With the kickoff meeting, the center is officially open for business.