Can Wilmington Be An AI Hub?

By David Dean, posted Jul 27, 2018
As companies such as Amazon invest millions in artificial intelligence (AI) research and development, some people in Wilmington are looking at the potential of the Port City to become an AI hub.
Julian Keith, chairman of the University of North Carolina Wilmington psychology department, is one of the individuals behind an ongoing series of AI meetings at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Keith had been discussing AI for several years over coffee with Mike Orr, who was involved in the early days of IBM Watson, the supercomputer forerunner of today’s AI systems. Curry Guinn, chairman of the UNCW computer science department, joined Keith and Orr in organizing the meetings at the CIE.
“AI is going to be tremendously impactful on culture and economies going forward,” Keith said, explaining that AI development is happening so fast that people may be caught off-guard by the transformative nature of its technology.
As the group started meeting and attracting interest from the business community and players in the local innovation ecosystem, the discussion turned toward the possibility of leveraging resources to make Wilmington a hub for research, development and startups involved with AI systems in markets like financial technology (fintech), pharmaceuticals and health care that could benefit from machine learning capabilities for predictive analytics.
Guinn, who has been involved with AI since the late 1980s, said within the past two to three years, the number of people in the Wilmington area doing work in AI in both industry and academia has exploded. According to Guinn, the immediate impact from machine learning is discovering trends in large amounts of data that are nearly impossible for humans to find, such as those that could be used to detect the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
“AI is so data driven that a lot of the innovation comes from companies with a tremendous amount of data,” he said, pointing to Wilmington’s PPD (clinical research), New Hanover Regional Medical Center (health care), nCino (banking software) and Apiture (fintech), as the types of operations that could take advantage of innovations spurred by a local AI hub.
Whether a Wilmington AI hub will end up being a grassroots configuration of local businesses, academia and the startup community or a centralized entity backed by a major investor such as Amazon – to pay for sought-after senior AI developers like those making $6 million salaries – is still unclear. In any case, investment in human capital is going to be essential for success.
Tom Looney, past president of Cucalorus Connect and an AI hub advocate, said Wilmington has a leg up on competing markets in this aspect.
“In the last 10 years, the attraction of human capital to our region has been far more important than relocating companies here,” he said, adding, “Quality of place is attracting talented professionals who want to be around other people with imagination, making the decisions to live here rather than somewhere else.”
Ico insights


Leath 683x10242

How to Fire Someone Effectively

Lisa Leath - Leath HR Group
Fredheadshot 5119113348

5 Ways to Ensure Long-Lasting, Quality Window Treatments

Fred Kumpel - Strickland's Home
Billhunter300x300 b&w

What the Heck is Google RankBrain?

Bill Hunter - Wilmington Design Company

Trending News

Hello Again, Henrietta: New Dinner Cruise Boat Floats Into Downtown Wilmington

Cece Nunn - May 21, 2019

Wheelz Pizza Aims To Revolutionize Pizza Delivery

Jessica Maurer - May 22, 2019

On Park Avenue In Wilmington, Developers Plan One-bedroom Apartments

Cece Nunn - May 21, 2019

In Wilmington, Lidl Store Under Construction, Set To Be Done By August

Johanna Cano - May 20, 2019

New Businesses, Dwellings Spring Up In Carolina Beach

Cece Nunn - May 20, 2019

In The Current Issue

MADE: Churning Out Profits

All the company’s handcrafted sandwiches are made in Wilmington, starting with homemade cookies and small-batch ice cream....

Officials Forecast Hot Summer Travel Season

Marketing efforts by the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), coupled with mended tourist attractions, are behind the...

Info Junkie: Jim R. Roberts

Info Junkie Jim R. Roberts, Founder of Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE), o...

Book On Business

The 2019 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!



2019 WilmingtonBiz Expo Keynote Lunch - CEO, nCino, Pierre Naude`
Transporting the Future - Power Breakfast 3.12.2019
Health Care Heroes 2018