This story was originally posted on The Gainesville Sun website.
Contrary to what some people may think, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. That distinction belongs to Karl Benz.
What Ford did, however, is equally significant: Ford perfected the assembly line for auto production, which led directly to making automobiles markedly less expensive and putting them within reach of millions of Americans.
In effect, Ford democratized the automobile, and in that I see a direct analogy to what the University of Florida is doing for artificial intelligence.
If you’re not familiar with it yet, UF in July announced a $100-million public-private partnership with NVIDIA that will catapult UF’s research strength to address some of the world’s most formidable challenges, create unprecedented access to AI training and tools for under-represented communities, and build momentum for transforming the future of the workforce.
At the heart of this effort is HiPerGator AI — the most powerful artificial intelligence supercomputer in higher education. The supercomputer, as well as related tools, training and other resources, is made possible by a donation from UF alumnus Chris Malachowsky, as well as from NVIDIA, the Silicon Valley-based technology company he co-founded and a world leader in AI and accelerated computing.
State support also plays a critical role, particularly as UF looks to add 100 AI-focused faculty members to the 500 new faculty recently added across the university — many of whom will weave AI into their teaching and research.
UF will likely be the nation’s first comprehensive research institution to integrate AI across the curriculum and make it a ubiquitous part of its academic enterprise. It will offer certificates and degree programs in AI and data science, with curriculum modules for specific technical and industry-focused domains.
The result? Thousands of students per year will graduate with AI skills, growing the AI-trained workforce in Florida and serving as a national model for institutions across the country. Ultimately, UF’s effort will help to address the important national problem of how to train the nation’s 21st-century workforce at scale.
Further, due to the unparalleled capabilities of our new machine, researchers will now have the tools to solve applied problems previously out of reach. Already researchers are eying how to identify at-risk students even if they are learning remotely, how to bend the medical cost curve to a sustainable level, and how to solve the problems facing Florida’s coastal communities and fresh water supply.
Additionally, UF recently announced it would make its supercomputer available to the entire State University System for educational and research purposes, further bolstering research and workforce training opportunities and positioning Florida to be a national leader in a field revolutionizing the way we all work and live. Soon, we plan to offer access to the machine even more broadly, boosting the national competitiveness of the U.S. by partnering with educational institutions and private industry around the country.
If Henry Ford were alive today, I believe he would recognize the importance of what’s happening at UF. And while he did not graduate from college, I believe he would be proud to see it happening at an American public university.
Joe Glover is provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at UF.