Microsoft has announced a five-year, $50 million commitment to put artificial intelligence technology in the hands of individuals and organization working to protect the planet.
Announced on the second anniversary of the Paris climate agreement at the One Planet Summit in Paris, the initiative will expand Microsoft's AI for Earth program, which the company launched six months ago with the goal of using AI technology to advance sustainability in areas such as agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, and water. To that end, Microsoft will boost the number of seed grants it awards to universities, nongovernmental organizations, and others looking to create and test new AI applications and, partnering closely with grantees and working with a new multidisciplinary Microsoft team, will make larger investments in the most promising projects to help bring them to scale. As the funded projects are completed, the company will pursue opportunities to incorporate new developments in AI into platform-level services, including, potentially, its own.
Since its launch, AI for Earth has awarded nearly forty grants to initiatives and organizations in more than ten countries, including real-time precision conservation and improved land cover mapping (video), precision agriculture efforts to boost yield with fewer resources (video), and more efficient biodiversity tracking and protection technologies.
"We face a collective need for urgent action to address global climate issues," wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, in a blog post. "When we think about the environmental issues we face today, science tells us that many are the product of previous Industrial Revolutions. As we enter the world's Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technology-fueled transformation, we must not only move technology forward, but also use this era's technology to clean up the past and create a better future."