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University of Waikato launches new artificial intelligence research institute

28 April 2021

The University of Waikato is bringing data to life, positioning New Zealand as an international leader in Artificial Intelligence with the launch of a new AI Institute.

The institute, Te Ipu o te Mahara, which translates as 'A Receptacle of Consciousness’, is focused on translating New Zealand’s world-leading expertise in AI, real time analytics of big data and machine learning, into commercial businesses and applications for the benefit of New Zealand industries and communities.

Institute Director, Professor Albert Bifet, renowned for his contributions to data science, says the Institute’s purpose is to link Waikato’s world-class training and education with leading research and ultimately boost New Zealand’s growing tech industry.

“Artificial intelligence and Māori tech have been identified as enabling growth engines for New Zealand and the purpose of Te Ipu o te Mahara is to leverage our world-leading expertise to benefit New Zealand.”

Waikato is already a trailblazer in AI and Machine Learning, responsible for applications like WEKA, the world's first open source machine learning library that has been downloaded more than 10 million times. Its researchers have also written books on machine learning and data mining used by Google employees and computer science departments in universities around the world. The University has also recently invested in New Zealand’s most powerful computer for AI.

Alongside Professor Bifet, Professor Bernhard Pfahringer, Professor Eibe Frank and Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan are co-directors of the Institute.

Professor Bifet says AI will transform research and business in New Zealand, with technology currently New Zealand’s third largest export sector. New Zealand’s top 200 tech companies brought in revenue of $12.7 billion in 2020.

“Research into real-time analytics for big data offers huge opportunities to create new businesses and transform existing businesses in New Zealand. It offers a step-change in computer performance, the efficiency and effectiveness of processing the huge datasets behind deep learning, machine learning and AI,” says Professor Bifet.

The Institute was recently involved with bringing together seven of the eight New Zealand universities involved in AI at Hobbiton, with the intention of further connecting and growing New Zealand’s AI community.

“Our focus is on building collaborative relationships between the Institute, the wider AI research community and the business community, both in New Zealand and internationally, and then using that research to support entrepreneurship and the commercialisation of AI technology,” says Professor Bifet.

Associate Director for the Institute, Jannat Maqbool, will be responsible for fostering these relationships.

“Alongside the work of experts and researchers a big focus of the Institute will be getting young people excited about STEM subjects and AI, so New Zealand can benefit from a local talent pool with diverse perspectives in leveraging this technology into the future,” says Mrs Maqbool.

The Institute will offer programmes in schools, deliver professional programmes for industry and help people connect and invent new ways to address the challenges of today, using AI.

Te Ipu o te Mahara will sit within the Division of Health, Engineering, Computing and Science at the University of Waikato.

The Institute was officially launched last night at the University’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

For more information visit the Institute’s website.


This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions Partnerships for the goals

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