May 30, 2024

PNNL Showcases AI Innovations at National Competitiveness Expo

Photo of the AI expo booth

PNNL was highlighted at the Department of Energy AI Pavilion, a central hub for attendees to engage with national laboratories and learn about AI initiatives at the Special Competitive Studies Project AI for National Competitiveness Expo.

(Photo courtesy of the Special Competitive Studies Project)

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) shared recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) at the inaugural Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP) AI for National Competitiveness Expo, held on May 7-8 in Washington DC. The event brought together leaders and experts from industry, government, and academia to explore emerging technologies and capabilities in AI. The expo was free to attend and drew a remarkable 10,000 participants, reflecting widespread interest and engagement in AI advancements, across industry and government stakeholders.

PNNL was prominently featured in the Department of Energy (DOE) AI Pavilion, which was hosted by the DOE Office of Critical and Emerging Technologies. This pavilion was a central hub for attendees to engage with national laboratories and learn about DOE's AI initiatives.

“DOE and its national laboratories made a strong showing at the recent AI Expo,” said Helena Fu, Director of the DOE Office of Critical and Emerging Technologies. “The demonstrations, presentations, and booth engagement that each lab contributed to the expo elevated DOE and its mission to a broad audience. Our presence at the AI Expo and collective efforts in support of the AI Executive Order underscore DOE’s leadership in developing and implementing cutting-edge AI.”

Highlighting PNNL's contributions

PNNL's presence at the expo included a live demonstration and briefing session that attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Robert Rallo, a senior researcher at PNNL, presented a demo on PolicyAI, highlighting how AI can be leveraged for policy-making and governance, particularly national environmental policy. The second day, Court Corley delivered a comprehensive briefing on the Center for AI @PNNL, in which he outlined how the Center is addressing pivotal areas of AI research and application:

  1. Domain-Aligned AI: Driving impact in critical domains like grid resilience, predictive phenomics, and climate security through the development and application of tailored AI solutions that are assured by design.
  2. Augmented Large Language Models: Leveraging the capabilities of large language models to support complex decision-making and analysis in areas like environmental permitting and protocol design for chemical catalysis.
  3. Energy Efficient AI: Developing AI technologies that minimize energy consumption while maximizing computational efficiency, such as novel computing architectures and AI approaches to optimize energy use.

Engaging with key stakeholders

The DOE AI Pavilion was a focal point of interaction, visited by high-profile government representatives including DOE Deputy Secretary David Turk and DOE Undersecretary for Science and Innovation Geri Richmond. These visits highlighted AI’s critical role in national competitiveness and the DOE's commitment to advancing AI research.

PNNL staff members, including Rallo, Court Corley, Bill Pike, Luke Richards, Maria Glenski, Tegan Emerson, Yousu Chen, Quentin Kreilmann, and Margaret Mitchell-Jones participated in booth activities and promoted several open job opportunities at PNNL. Their efforts helped elevate the visibility of PNNL’s work and foster connections with potential collaborators and job seekers.

Broader context and future directions

The expo coincided with significant announcements from the White House and the DOE, emphasizing the strategic importance of AI. The White House released a statement outlining key AI actions taken in the 180 days following an AI Executive Order. This included measures to manage AI safety and security risks and new funding opportunities to support AI applications in science. Concurrently, the DOE announced initiatives to bolster America's leadership in AI, mentioning PNNL's PolicyAI project and pivotal reports coauthored by PNNL, such as “Advanced Research Directions on AI for Energy" and "Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Technology in Power System Applications."

A highlight at the expo was the announcement of and a panel discussion on the Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence for Science, Security, and Technology (FASST) initiative. This ambitious program aims to leverage the DOE’s supercomputing resources, vast scientific data, and the expertise of scientists across its 17 national laboratories, focused on:

  • Building AI-ready scientific data at scale
  • Developing next-generation compute platforms
  • Creating trustworthy AI systems
  • Implementing transformative AI mission applications

This infusion of AI into various scientific and industrial processes has already yielded advancements and continues to promise transformative impacts on national security, energy efficiency, and scientific discovery.

Ready for the future

The SCSP AI for National Competitiveness Expo marked a pivotal moment for showcasing PNNL’s AI innovations and the DOE's strategic vision for AI leadership. “By participating in this high-profile event, DOE and NNSA demonstrated our technical leadership and reinforced our role as a key player in the national and global AI landscape,” said Court Corley, Director of the Center for AI @PNNL. “As AI  evolves, PNNL’s contributions will be valuable in driving technological advancements at AI's frontiers and elevating U.S. national competitiveness in an increasingly digital world.”