New Commonwealth Grant Aims to Give Massachusetts Businesses an AI ‘Jumpstart’

Thursday, April 8, 2021
Innovation Institute at MassTech Collaborative


New Commonwealth Grant Aims to Give Massachusetts Businesses an AI ‘Jumpstart’

$2.2M Grant to Northeastern University Funds R&D Infrastructure and Faculty Expertise to Boost Use of AI and Machine Learning by Mass. Firms

WESTBOROUGH, MASS. – The Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) has awarded Northeastern University a $2.2 million grant for the AI Jumpstart Program, an innovative pilot program to assist Massachusetts firms interested in deploying artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance their businesses. This novel program will fund new computing infrastructure at Northeastern and connect industry partners with world-class facilities and researchers across several AI disciplines.

The program will incorporate AI and machine learning tools and techniques into businesses across a range of industries, including: process and smart manufacturing; wireless communications and networking; health and medicine; and security and defense. 

“This investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning will enhance several key sectors of our innovation economy, including cybersecurity, robotics and manufacturing,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is pleased to provide this grant to help businesses across Massachusetts advance their products and services with the support of these cutting-edge tools.”

“The AI Jumpstart Program is an example of the strong partnership between the public, private, and academic sectors found in Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Through this pilot, we look forward to MassTech and Northeastern building on 15 years of collaboration to help more businesses benefit from our robust innovation ecosystem.”

MassTech is contributing funds from two different sources to support two categories of activities: 

  • Operating funds to pay for faculty experts to assist Massachusetts businesses. Experts will be identified, selected and assigned by the Northeastern team from a strong pool of researchers at Northeastern, Tufts, and Boston University. 

“The College of Engineering is proud to be leading this engagement between world-class researchers in AI and critical industries in Massachusetts. It is a reflection of years of commitment to use-inspired research, experiential learning, and a promise for continued innovations to impact our economy and society,” said Gregory D. Abowd, Dean of the College of Engineering at Northeastern University.

The AI Jumpstart project continues a 15-year history of collaboration between MassTech and Northeastern, which has established a track record of successful university-based research and development projects that engage industry. Given the potential upside to companies from this award, MassTech is partnering with Northeastern on the development of this new concept, bringing to bear leadership from several of the University’s research centers: Gordon-CenSSIS, a graduated National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center, the DHS-funded ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) Center of Excellence, the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NSF-funded Colosseum facility, the Northeastern University Computer Architecture Research Laboratory, and the Northeastern Machine Learning Laboratory. 

“The investments we make in things like the AI Jumpstart Program help Massachusetts maintain its position at the forefront of the latest developments and trends in this rapidly burgeoning industry,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “Today’s grant is an economic and academic opportunity for us as a Commonwealth to really expand our footprint in the worlds of artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

The Innovation Institute at MassTech will be playing an innovative new role in the AI Jumpstart Program, working directly with companies to help them understand the benefits of deploying novel AI applications and to evaluate projects alongside the university.  The AI Jumpstart program looks to create competitive advantages for Massachusetts companies.

“The objective of this program is to increase the competitiveness of Massachusetts’ homegrown businesses, providing them access to world-class technology and experts, as well as the guidance to harness the capabilities of AI,” said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech.

Michael B. Silevitch, the principal investigator of AI Jumpstart and director of the ALERT Center of Excellence said, “The AI Jumpstart program is a powerful model of collaboration between industry, academia and the Mass Tech/John Adams Innovation Institute. It will begin with an AI focus but can ultimately expand to encompass other transformative areas of technology.”

The $2.2 million awarded by MassTech has allowed for the design and purchase of multi-architecture computational clusters that will provide the required scale and variety of computing resources to address the computational needs of the participating companies. These clusters will expand upon the existing systems in place at both the Colosseum facility and the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, in Holyoke, Mass., which operates as a joint venture between Northeastern, Boston University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts.

Northeastern will provide $2 million in matching support for the MassTech capital investment, which brings the total project cost to $4.2 million.  AI Jumpstart will also provide selected companies with access to the $25 million DARPA/NSF supported Colosseum facility—the world’s largest wireless emulator— where it has been integrated with the NSF Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research program. 

“Northeastern is a leader in artificial intelligence with accomplished faculty conducting innovative work across its many disciplines. The AI Jumpstart program is an example of Northeastern’s research strength in this area and its commitment to support industry and contribute to the advancement of society,” said David Luzzi, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Vice President of the Innovation Campus at Burlington, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts companies interested in participating in the AI Jumpstart Program are invited to complete a brief introductory application, which can be found at  

Following an application review, MassTech and Northeastern will select an estimated 30 companies to participate in a half-day informational workshop, which will take place virtually on June 11th. The workshop will describe the resources and expertise available to the companies so they can develop full proposals to compete for acceptance into the program. Following a final application review process and selection of companies by MassTech and Northeastern, the university will match, assign, and oversee the designated faculty consultants.


About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts.  The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth.  Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:

  • Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
  • Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
  • Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
  • Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.

About Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a global research university and the recognized leader in experience-driven lifelong learning. Our world-renowned experiential approach empowers our students, faculty, alumni, and partners to create impact far beyond the confines of discipline, degree, and campus.

Our locations—in Boston; the Massachusetts communities of Burlington and Nahant; Charlotte, North Carolina; London; Portland, Maine; San Francisco; Seattle; Silicon Valley; Toronto; and Vancouver—are nodes in our growing global university system. Through this network, we expand opportunities for flexible, student-centered learning and collaborative, solutions-focused research

Northeastern’s comprehensive array of undergraduate and graduate programs—on-campus, online, and in hybrid formats—lead to degrees through the doctorate in nine colleges and schools. Among these, we offer more than 140 multi-discipline majors and degrees designed to prepare students for purposeful lives and careers.