NSF To Launch National AI Research Resource Pilot

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced the launch of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR) pilot, which the agency describes as a first step towards realizing "the vision for a shared research infrastructure that will strengthen and democratize access to critical resources necessary to power responsible AI discovery and innovation."

Led by the NSF in partnership with 10 other federal agencies and 25 non-governmental partners, the pilot aims to create a shared national research infrastructure for responsible discovery and innovation in AI. It'll do that, its organizers say, by making available government-funded, industry, and other contributed resources in support of the nation's research and education community.  

The NAIRR pilot is directed in the Executive Order on the Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. As a proof-of-concept for the eventual full-scale NAIRR, the pilot will focus on supporting research and education across the nationwide research community. Insights gained from the pilot will help to refine the design of a full NAIRR, the organizers say.

The NAIRR pilot will run for two years, beginning January 24, 2024, and its operations will initially support AI research to advance safe, secure, and trustworthy AI, as well as the application of AI to challenges in healthcare and environmental and infrastructure sustainability. It will also provide infrastructure support to educators to enable training on AI technologies and their responsible approaches.  

The pilot's operations will be organized into four focus areas:  

  • NAIRR Open will enable open AI research through access to diverse AI resources via the NAIRR Pilot Portal and coordinated allocations.  
  • NAIRR Secure, co-led by NIH and DOE, will enable AI research requiring privacy and security-preserving resources and will assemble exemplar privacy preserving resources.   
  • NAIRR Software will facilitate and investigate inter-operable use of AI software, platforms, tools, and services for NAIRR pilot resources.  
  • NAIRR Classroom will reach new communities through education, training, user support and outreach.  

"Today's announcement makes progress on President Biden's goal to advance responsible AI so that everyone in America can benefit from this powerful technology," said Arati Prabhakar, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, in a statement. "The National AI Research Resource pilot will give researchers access to critical data and compute, catalyzing action to achieve America's great aspirations."

The collaborative nature of the pilot, which brings together academia, industry, nonprofit .and government sectors, is intended to promote cross-sector partnerships, the organizers say. "Industry collaboration can lead to the development of commercially viable AI applications and solutions, fostering economic growth by creating new markets and revenue streams," they said.

The list of private sector partners initially supporting the pilot includes Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, NVIDIA, Intel, Google, , Meta, IBM, and eight others.

Microsoft is reportedly contributing $20 million in Azure compute credits, access to cutting-edge models through the Azure OpenAI Service, advanced tools for developing trustworthy AI, resources for HIPAA-compliant computing to support health care research, and innovative tools for scientific discovery via Azure Quantum Elements. Redmond says it will also provide "collaborative opportunities" with its scientists and engineers.

"We're excited to support the National AI Research Resource pilot, a pivotal step in broadening AI research access," said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft's Chief Scientific Officer, in a statement. "This initiative aligns with our commitment to democratize AI research and spur innovation. We’re enthusiastic about contributing to the pilot and look forward to sharing learnings that inform the full-scale NAIRR, as envisioned for the post-pilot era."

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also contributing to the pilot.

"AWS is honored to support the launch of the National AI Research Resource pilot program" said Kim Majerus, Vice President of Global Education and U.S. State and Local Government at AWS. "As one of the world's leading developers and deployers of AI tools and services, we support the safe, secure and responsible development of AI technology. We are committed to supporting the U.S. National Science Foundation, as well as collaborating agencies, educators, and research communities, as they mobilize support for AI research."

Researchers can discover and apply for initial access to NAIRR pilot resources through the NAIRR pilot portal.  A second, broader call for proposals from the research community will be released in spring 2024, the organizers say. It will provide a mechanism for researchers to apply for access to the full suite of NAIRR pilot resources contributed by pilot partners. 

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at