Saying she hopes it makes New York the next Silicon Valley, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday highlighted the state’s investment in artificial intelligence research, which was approved in the state budget earlier this month.

Hochul and state lawmakers approved $400 million in public and private funds for the project known as Empire AI.

“We have our Erie Canal moment right now,” Hochul said during an appearance with industry leaders at Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island in New York City. “This is how significant this Empire AI initiative is.”

It will fund the building of a large-scale AI computing center at the University at Buffalo that will be accessed by a consortium of leading universities, including Columbia, New York University, Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as well as those in the SUNY and CUNY systems.

Hochul said only the largest technology companies currently have the resources to create AI-related computers, giving them outsized control of the emerging technology.

She said a publicly built AI database offers access to researchers at universities, public interest organizations, and smaller tech companies who might otherwise be left behind.

Hochul said it also has the potential to create thousands of good-paying jobs and revive the flagging upstate economy.

“The state, with the passage of our budget, now has the resources necessary to do something which is quite extraordinary,” she said. “To make available the supercomputing power of AI available to every student who wishes to avail themselves of it in the state of New York. This is a great equalizer. It is going to create great opportunities for jobs and commercialization, new jobs, new entrepreneurs.”

The state budget provides $275 million in grants and other funding, while the remaining $125 million comes from private funding sources and the universities themselves, which are each contributing $25 million.

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