IYA ‘Student-driven Innovations in AI and Society’ Pilot Program to Launch in 2024

USC’s Office of Research and Innovation (OORI) is thrilled to announce the recent award made to support the creation of a new, two-year pilot program, titled “Student-driven Innovations in AI & Society.” A collaborative effort between the Center for Generative AI & Society (CGAIS) and USC Iovine and Young Academy (IYA), the pilot program will combine and expand upon the current resources and capabilities of each entity. The pilot program will be an engaging opportunity for students to explore topics such as AI and Media, AI and Education, and Transformative AI, alongside subject-matter-expert academic and industry mentors. The program will aim to help students form diverse teams and translate their ideas into prototypes as well as start-ups and non-profit applications embedded in society. Secondary outcomes of the pilot program may include grants, publications, philanthropic and industry fundraising, industry partnerships, and the development of a related industry academia-student incubator. 

This cross-cutting, multidisciplinary effort will involve faculty and staff from multiple schools, including Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, IYA, Rossier School of Education, and Viterbi School of Engineering. The leadership team includes: Stephen J. Aguilar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Education (Rossier); Gabriel Kahn, Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism, Co-Director of the M{2e} program, and Innovations Manager for the Annenberg Innovation Lab (Annenberg); Tina Sharkey, Lecturer, Business of Innovation (IYA); and Alexander Titus, Ph.D., Senior Supervising Computer Scientist and Principal Scientist (ISI-Viterbi). 

The pilot program will be a complimentary addition to USC’s expanding efforts in relation to student and researcher entrepreneurship, following the recent announcement of the USC and Techstars Digital Economy Program, which is focused on startups working on digital advancement across bioscience, biomedicine, physical science, engineering, information, and computer sciences. 

“USC is excited to create more opportunities to engage our students in innovative, forward-thinking research and activities,” said Dr. Steven Moldin, Associate Vice President of Research Strategy & Innovation, “this program will have a measurable impact on our students through the resources and experiences it will provide.”

The pilot program will be realized through an expansion of IYA’s Innovation Quest; an annual cycle of informal learning experiences that aim to help students conceptualize, prototype and commercialize integrated innovations at the intersection of technology, human-centric design and business. The expanded Innovation Quest will include a path for student innovations in GenAI and Society (with focus on AI and Media, AI and Education and Transformative AI).  Participating student-teams will receive guidance in developing seed proposal. Selected seed proposals will receive seed funding, dedicated mentoring from faculty and industry as well as access to facilities for idea development and prototyping. Seed proposals will compete at an annual Venture Showcase for a $30,000 GenAI and Society student innovation price.  

“IYA is excited to see the university support this timely initiative,” said Dr. Thanassis Rikakis, Dean of IYA, “we strongly believe that this program will help advance student ventures at the intersection of AI and society while also providing learning experiences in cross-cutting innovation and translation and advancing new challenge based learning methods for human-centric technology education and research. 

The pilot program will begin this in Fall 2024 and will run through June of 2026.