Carnegie Mellon University
March 26, 2020

CMU,, Microsoft, and Five Leading Research Universities Launch Digital Transformation Institute

First call of proposals to focus on AI techniques to mitigate COVID-19

Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
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Carnegie Mellon University is joining five other leading universities, and Microsoft Corporation to form a research consortium dedicated to accelerating the application of artificial intelligence to speed the pace of digital transformation within business, government and society. The Digital Transformation Institute ( DTI) will attract the world's leading scientists, innovators and industry experts to spark advanced research that will propel the new Science of Digital Transformation. DTI's first call for research proposals focuses on embracing the challenge of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and advancing the knowledge, science and technologies for mitigating the impact of future pandemics using AI. This is the first in what will be a series of bi-annual calls for Digital Transformation research proposals.

In addition to Carnegie Melllon, DTI includes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), University of California, Berkeley Princeton University, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC.

"The Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators and executives from academia and industry joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation," said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO of "We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic," Siebel continued. "I cannot imagine a more important use of AI."

"The vision of DTI is driven by the recognition of digital transformation as both a science as well as a scientific imperative for this pivotal time, applicable to every sector of our economy across the public and private sectors, including healthcare, education and public health," said Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon University. "We are excited to participate in building out the Institute's structure, program and further alliances. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey that can have enormous positive impact on the world."

The DTI's initial topics for research awards include applying machine learning and other AI methods to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic; biomedical informatics methods for drug design and repurposing; and sharing of clinical trials for collecting data on medications, therapies and interventions.

The first call for proposals is open now, with a submission deadline of May 1, 2020. The grants are available to researchers from DTI member institutions, although any researchers can be part of a consortium principle investigator's proposal. Researchers are invited to learn more about DTI and how to submit their proposals for consideration at C3DTI.

Selected submissions will be announced by June 1, 2020. It is anticipated that up to $5.8 million in awards will be funded from this first call, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each. In addition to cash awards, DTI recipients will be provided with significant cloud computing, supercomputing, data, and AI software resources and technical support provided by Microsoft and This will include unlimited use of the C3 AI Suite; access to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and the Azure stack; and access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Super Computing Applications (NCSA) at UIUC and the NERSC Perlmutter supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

"Microsoft is pleased to join with and these fine research institutions on this important mission accelerating world-changing research to help solve critical problems across all sectors of our economy," said Eric Horvitz, chief scientist at Microsoft. "Precision medicine is a huge opportunity," Horvitz continued, "and no matter is more critical than COVID-19 mitigation."

At the heart of DTI will be the constant flow of new ideas and expertise provided by ongoing research, visiting professors and research scholars, and faculty and scholars in residence, many of whom will come from beyond the member institutions. DTI will focus its research on AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Big Data Analytics, human factors, organizational behavior, ethics and public policy. The Institute will support the development of ML algorithms, data security, and cybersecurity techniques. DTI research will analyze new business operation models, develop methods of implementing organizational change management and protecting privacy, and amplify the dialogue around the ethics of AI.

To learn more about DTI's program, grant opportunities and call for proposals, please visit