Planning Grant: Engineering Research Center for AI in Construction (AI-Con)
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The Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers competition was run as a pilot solicitation within the ERC program. Planning grants are not required as part of the full ERC competition, but intended to build capacity among teams to plan for convergent, center-scale engineering research.This Planning Grant award supports the development of a research roadmap for implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in the construction industry and the formation of a multi-institutional team working toward an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC). Construction is one of the largest global industries, employing 7% of the world''s workforce and contributing more than $10T annually to the world economy. However, it has the lowest productivity of any manufacturing industry, labor-intensive jobs with significant safety risks, and ballooning costs. New AI technologies have the potential to address all these challenges, leading to massive, positive economic and social impact. AI is poised to revolutionize the construction industry similarly to how the assembly line revolutionized the automobile industry, leading to significant cost reductions, higher productivity, and safer, better paying jobs for the United States of America.There are three primary activities. The first is an advisory board meeting. The 10-member advisory board will consist of leaders in AI, construction industry leaders, and government representatives connected with the construction industry. Its objectives are to (1) formally define the ERC planning grant advisory board, (2) refine and resolve the primary research themes of the ERC, and (3) identify a group of 15 individuals from US academic institutions to invite to the second activity. The second activity is a symposium on the topic of AI in Construction. Its objectives are to (1) develop a research roadmap to achieve the ERC vision, and (2) identify the academic partners for the ERC proposal. The third activity is the ERC preproposal writing workshop. Its objectives are to (1) produce an outline of a competitive ERC preproposal, (2) identify potential industry shareholders for the ERC, and (3) identify a diverse ERC leadership team that will include representatives from each partnering institution to carry out all four foundational components of an ERC: research, engineering workforce development, innovation ecosystem, and a culture of inclusion. Impacts of the ERC will include significant advancements in AI algorithms, human-machine interfacing, machine learning for generative design, and deep learning that will transform how construction projects operate in all aspects from conception to design to completion. Research on AI for construction will help usher in the ''third wave" of AI, which will signal an ascent toward human-level learning, thinking, inferencing, and problem solving. The new AI technologies - and advancements toward the third wave of AI - will largely be adaptable outside the construction industry to impact many other disciplines and various aspects of society.This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.