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Immediate Release

DoD Co-funds Institute to Research the Neural, Biological, and Cognitive Foundations of Artificial Intelligence

The Department of Defense announced the award of $10 million for the establishment of an institute dedicated to advancing unified research in artificial and natural intelligence. Co-funded with the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes program, the new institute will improve understanding of how the brain functions and pursue designs of more capable and trustworthy AI.

The purpose of the NSF program is to support institutes in the performance of long-term, high-reward research on AI-related themes such as the next generation of cybersecurity, climate-smart agriculture and forestry, trustworthy AI, and AI-augmented learning. The program includes a DoD-sponsored focus area on the neural and cognitive foundations of AI, under which DoD and NSF are making this award. 

“As our understanding of artificial intelligence grows, it has transformed the fields of biology and neuroscience, even as our understanding of cognition in nature informs advances in AI research. This institute seeks to unify these fields,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, Director of the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “Continued advancement in these areas holds the potential to deliver significant economic impact and further improvements in quality of life.”

From a merit-based review of 15 proposals, a panel of experts selected one multi-university team, led by Columbia University, for the award. With joint funding, this award will total approximately $20 million over five years to explore how advances in understanding neural, biological, and cognitive processes can support a rich set of models and mechanisms for guiding the transformational development of AI.

About USD(R&E) 

The Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)) is the Chief Technology Officer of the Department of Defense. The USD(R&E) champions research, science, technology, engineering, and innovation to maintain the U.S. military’s technological advantage. Learn more at, follow us on Twitter @DoDCTO, or visit us on LinkedIn at