Amazon has a dedicated university fellowship program intended to help build up the AI workforce of the future, and the company just announced which universities have been invited into the program for this year. The program is divided into two different types of fellowships, which provide different types of benefits. Of the 20 universities picked this year, 14 are new to the program. Each of the two types of fellowships has ten eligible universities this year, set to receive stipends, mentoring, and other benefits, all paid for by Amazon's dedicated Alexa Fund. Currently, the Alexa Fund's total allocated amount is $200 million.
The Alexa Graduate Fellowship is a stipend, tuition coverage and mentorship from an Alexa scientist for doctorate and post-doctorate students. The ten recipient universities for this year include big names in the States like Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins, but also a number of international institutes. Hyderabad, India's International Institute of Information Technology is on the list, as is the UK's University of Cambridge. The Alexa Innovation Fellowship is new this year, and it's targeted at university faculty who specialize in both conversational AI and entrepreneurship. The idea is to give the professors funding, devices, hardware kits and training to turn them into an "expert resource" for students, thereby growing the total number of competent conversational AI pros out in the world. California State University and Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts are a part of this list, but for this year, there are no recipients outside the United States.
Amazon doesn't just hand over the money and resources for the Alexa Fellowship then walk away – the company will be keeping up with fellowship recipients and posting occasional updates on the company blog over time. That's also where Amazon will be putting information on possible candidates for next year's list of recipient universities. This generous effort, much like Amazon's developer advocacy methods, have the end goal of adding power and value to Amazon's Alexa AI and the tech sphere in which it resides. Even if these fellows don't go on to develop direct solutions for Alexa or work for Amazon, the company will still benefit from their efforts in advancing the science of conversational AI, which will lay the groundwork to expand Alexa's capabilities.