With world-leading capabilities in Artificial Intelligence, South Australia is building global collaborations with major tech firms. 

Amazon Web Services moved in, closely followed by Google Cloud, as Adelaide's reputation as a globally-recognised epicentre for artificial intelligence (AI) continues to attract the world’s biggest technology companies focused on creating future technologies.

These world-renowned hi-tech companies are setting up in the city, seeking to collaborate with the internationally recognised, home-grown expertise within the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) bigdata Living Lab, the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE), and the Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre (ACCC).  

“Adelaide has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship. A core focus for AWS and Amazon Sciences at Lot Fourteen is to further foster innovation within South Australia and help local customers to take their solutions globally to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. The scalability of AWS’s global infrastructure has enabled local companies to expand quickly around the world, while remaining in South Australia.” Sarah Bassett, Head of Western Australia and South Australia, Amazon Web Services.  

"It is not just that companies can employ the best graduates and PhD students in the world, they can also remain at the forefront by being close to groundbreaking research," says Gavin Artz, Director, Hi-tech and Creative Industries, for the South Australian Government Department for Trade and Investment.  

The South Australian Government has set out a strategic vision to develop Adelaide as a hi-tech epicentre. What has emerged is a hub with world-leading capabilities in AI and data analytics that is drawing global attention from some of the most recognised tech companies in the world.

“Google Cloud has several projects that it’s on the cusp of announcing that have come about thanks to Adelaide's unique environment for co-innovation”, says Michael Grantham, Director of Public Sector, Google Cloud in Australia and New Zealand.

"We see AI as the next major wave for the future of industries. With its ability to handle computer and data analytics at any scale, cloud computing accelerates the capabilities of machine learning," he continued.

Digital technologies, including AI, are potentially worth $315 billion to the Australian economy by 2028, according to consultancy firm AlphaBeta. PWC forecasts that AI could be worth $22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

To participate, Australia needs up to 161,000 new AI specialists by the end of the decade. South Australia plans to be at the forefront of this jobs and economic wave by growing its AI brains trust and amplifying future research and commercial outcomes through the unique ecosystem it has created in Adelaide.

AIML Director, Professor Simon Lucey, says the University of Adelaide is ranked second in the world for computer vision research and has defined an entire subsector of the field called visual question and answering (VQA).

He says AI will be a ‘great transformer’ for Australia, as it creates jobs and opportunities far beyond what we can imagine today.

"Computer vision is a subtopic within AI that's essentially trying to make machines see like we do," he says. "It's an area that's very important for autonomous cars, for example, and in health we can use the technology to help clinicians rapidly improve their ability to diagnose and make decisions."

Computer vision is a space where IVE Director Professor Bruce Thomas hopes to see a critical mass of AI expertise congregating in Adelaide that will transform how people interact virtually, potentially remaking remote coworking.

"Adelaide has world class researchers in Computer Vision and AI… and these experts collaborate with world class researchers in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to understand the information associated with the physical world," he says.  

"Capturing and presenting representations of the physical world with AI and AR/VR improves understanding for a wide range of situations, such as juries in court cases, geologists on drilling sites, defence personnel, and builders on construction sites." 

But it's not just companies and government departments, such as defence, that are working with South Australia's AI minds. 

MIT bigdata Living Lab has produced a 'digital twin' of Adelaide that includes rich census data to figure out where people in particular neighbourhoods work, shop and move about, to help with issues such as mapping where the government needs to pay special attention to support small business, and analysing Adelaide's labour market.

MIT’s Professor Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, hopes this kind of data can better connect Adelaide to the trade growth happening in the Indo-Pacific region.

"AI is all about finding patterns in data. Data about trade, about finance, about evolution of cities. It is how you can discover how to be most efficient and where there are commercial gaps. This is why India, Singapore and China have invested so heavily in AI; it is critical for being competitive in the growing Indo-Pacific trade region," he says.  

South Australia's AI strategy has enabled partnerships between companies and researchers, and in doing so has created space for blue sky thinking that will ultimately change the way we see the world.

"Global technology companies are building the future on AI and data analytics. Adelaide will be one of the crucial global nodes providing the digital infrastructure on which the entire world will operate," concludes Gavin Artz.

Originally published in The Australian.