Microsoft Launches the Microsoft Research Institute (MARI) to Foster Scientific Innovation and Support Digital Transformation

Jaime Teevan, Chief Scientist, Microsoft, Dr Jacki O’Neill, founding director of the Microsoft Africa Research Institute and Dr. Kagonya Awori, Senior Applied Scientist, Microsoft brief press during the opening of Microsoft Africa Research Institute in Nairobi.

Just the other day, Microsoft launched the African Development Center at the Dunhill Towers in Nairobi. The world class facility which was opened by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to foster innovation not just in Kenya but on the continent as well. Thereafter, Microsoft announced the establishment of the Microsoft Research Institute (MARI) that would be located at the African Development Centre (ADC) offices.

The development center aims to leverage on the diversity of the regional landscape to build world class talent capable of creating innovative solutions with global impact. 

The ADC facility will support innovation through tight collaboration between MARI, product teams, and the Microsoft Garage, an incubation hub launched as part of the ongoing efforts to scale tech innovation in the continent.

The MARI, which is one of a kind and the first on the continent, will be at the forefront of creating technologies that drive a more sustainable and productive future of work.

It will conduct cutting edge research in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Systems and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

The institute will collaborate closely with Microsoft East Africa and the ADC to forge strategic alliances and links with local academia to boost the country’s and region’s research capabilities in the tech sphere, with three focus areas on health, work, and society.

“Kenya is leading the way in the transformation of work” said Dr. Jacki O’Neill, the founding director of MARI during the launch. “At MARI our mission is to understand, build and deploy innovative cloud and AI technologies which not only address core opportunities in Africa and help solve local challenges at scale, but which also contribute to creating a more productive future of work, health and society globally,”

The MARI has already assembled a multidisciplinary team of Nairobi-based researchers, designers, data scientists, and software engineers. This team has completed its first scientific project on the digital transformation of African small and medium-sized businesses, examining how work practices in Africa have changed since COVID, and will soon release the findings.

Looking ahead, the institute is working on several projects, including Swahili (and Sheng) language technology, exploring how AI can extend healthcare beyond the clinic, and technology innovation to support digital transformation in the Covid era.

It also announced that three PhD fellowships have been awarded to African university students who will intern at MARI in 2022. The institute will offer a visiting researcher program, summer schools, and a venue for student projects.

The Microsoft African Research Institute (MARI) is part of the Office of Applied Research and the Nairobi African Development Centre.

Speaking at the launch of the research center, Jaime Teevan, a Chief Scientist at Microsoft reiterated the importance of digital technology and scientific innovation in enabling sustainable futures for everyone.

Research and Innovation are key for driving sustainable economies. I am excited to see how the research center will foster collaboration with the mentioned partners to drive research and scientific innovation, not just in the country, but within the continent as well.

For more information about the research center, visit the MARI website.



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