Microsoft Research launches a center for creating projects that can have real-world societal impact

Abhishek Baxi

Microsoft Research India has announced the launch of a center for Societal impact through Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (SCAI).

Part of the Microsoft Research (MSR) Lab in Bengaluru, SCAI will focus on creating and nurturing projects and transitioning them from lab to scale for real-world impact.

“There are so many opportunities to leverage recent advances in cloud computing and AI technologies to address long-term societal challenges spanning multiple sectors and realms, including health and wellness, education, transportation, and agriculture,” said Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director at Microsoft Research.

SCAI will engage with NGOs, academicians, and startups through external collaborations; graduate and undergraduate students through the SCAI Fellow program in collaboration; and actively seek collaborators through calls for proposals.

To start with, Microsoft is currently working with four organizations – Respirer Living Sciences for a project focusing on urban air pollution, NIMHANS for a project on mental health, Pratham Books for assisted translation system which enables children to read storybooks in multiple languages, and Voicedeck Technologies for Learn2Earn, a program which reinforces education and rewards learning through financial incentives.

The collaborators will be provided with financial grants, access to world-class Microsoft researchers, technologies, as well as access to business insights from Microsoft for Startups. Also, the physical space at MSR India will enable members to exchange ideas and create a collaborative ecosystem.

According to Sriram Rajamani, Managing Director of Microsoft Research India, over the last few years, they have seen a significant increase in projects and enterprises from academia and startups that focus on improving societal conditions. SCAI is a programmatic way of identifying and nurturing projects that have a real chance to create a widespread impact on society.

He believes that technologies like cloud and AI have a key role to play in bridging the digital divide in developing economies. These advancements should be used to benefit the larger population – improve their health, education, job prospects, and their livelihood opportunities.