Public-Private Partnerships Underscored in Updated AI R&D Strategy Plan

Published: June 26, 2019

Artificial Intelligence/Machine LearningInformation TechnologyPolicy and LegislationResearch and Development

NITRD’s updated National AI R&D Strategic Plan includes a new, eighth strategy which emphasizes greater federal R&D engagement with the private sector.


The U.S. first published the National AI R&D Strategy Plan in 2016 to help guide federal investment in AI R&D and ensure AI capabilities improved the quality of life for the American people. In response to rapid development and advancements in AI, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program issued an RFI to solicit feedback for an updated plan to address the evolving AI landscape. Last week, NTIRD made good on its word and issued the 2019 publication of the AI R&D Strategy Plan.  The mission of the new plan is to “provide a high-level framework for Federal investments that can lead to impactful advances in the field and positive societal benefits.”

Many of the RFI responses reiterated the analysis and approach taken in the 2016 plan while heavily emphasizing trustworthy, ethical and accountable AI systems, accessible datasets, and the AI workforce. Reponses also underscored the importance of AI investments in areas such as manufacturing, supply chain, transportation, healthcare, cybersecurity and physical sciences.

Public-Private Partnerships

Collaborators of the new plan also took into consideration responses that focused on strong relationships between federal, academic and private spaces, recognizing the fast rise of privately funded and rapid adoption of AI by industry. As a result, the updated plan added an eighth strategy to promote the expansion of public-private partnerships to enhance AI R&D.

The 2019 plan highlights the benefits of public-private partnerships in AI R&D including, “strategically leveraging resources, including facilities, datasets, and expertise, to advance science and engineering innovations; accelerating the transition of these innovations to practice; and enhancing education and training for next-generation researchers, technicians, and leaders.”

The Strategy

Keeping the original text of the seven strategies from the 2016 plan, the updated document provides additional focus areas for each strategy to reflect priorities in the AI space from the past three years. Also listed with each of the original seven strategies are recent agency R&D programs highlighting that strategy’s respective purpose. The following is a complete list with the addition of the newest strategy:

  • Strategy 1: Make long-term investments in AI research
  • Strategy 2: Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration
  • Strategy 3: Understand and address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI
  • Strategy 4: Ensure the safety and security of AI systems
  • Strategy 5: Develop shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing
  • Strategy 6: Measure and evaluate AI technologies through standards and benchmarks
  • Strategy 7: Better understand the national AI R&D workforce needs
  • Strategy 8: Expand public-private partnerships to accelerate advances in AI

Strategies 3 through 8 are the crosscutting foundations of the plan that will affect the development of all AI systems. Strategies 1 and 2 will promote the areas of research needed to advance AI such as data analytics, human-level AI, human augmentation, natural language processing, interfaces and visualizations. As anticipated by the plan, these R&D AI advancements will aim to have an impact on application areas such as agriculture, communications, defense, education, finance, healthcare, security and transportation.

Agency Response

Agencies are expected to embrace the changes outlined in the updated AI R&D plan as many federal leaders in the space have expressed the same desires and recommendations for the strategy. One agency has already responded to the call for expanded public-private partnerships. Issuing the announcement the same day as the new plan’s release, the Department of Energy stated that its next DOE Innovation XLab Summit will exclusively focus on AI. The annual summit typically showcases the assets of DOE’s laboratories to deepen their engagement with academia and industry. According to DOE Secretary Perry, this year’s summit will “convene world class experts from DOE’s national labs with private industry to showcase the vast capabilities of our Supercomputers. The potential of DOE-fueled Artificial Intelligence is enormous and I am excited for what results this innovation will yield in the years to come.”