April 12, 2021

Google DeepMind selects New York for new AI research hub


Google Deepmind head Demis Hassabis speaks during a press conference ahead of the Google DeepMind Challenge Match in Seoul on March 8, 2016.

Jung Yeon-Je | AFP |Getty Images | Getty Images

LONDON — DeepMind, the U.K. artificial intelligence lab acquired by Google in 2014, has quietly hired a team of researchers in New York.

The company — widely regarded as one of the leading AI firms in the world — hired Facebook AI Research (FAIR) co-founder Rob Fergus to lead its New York team last June. Several people have joined Fergus’s team in the last few months and DeepMind is actively recruiting in the city.

“Last year we were delighted to have computer vision and deep learning pioneer Rob Fergus join our team,” a DeepMind spokesperson told CNBC. “Rob is based in New York and this exciting role will be a key part of his growing team there.”

DeepMind declined to say how many people it has in New York but LinkedIn analysis suggests the number is between 10 and 15. “There is a small core group right now, which we’ll carefully grow over time,” a spokesperson said. The team is currently working from home but DeepMind said they’ll work out of a Google building once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

While FAIR has less than 400 people, DeepMind employs around 1,000 people worldwide, with the bulk of those based at its London headquarters. The remainder are spread across satellite outposts in Mountain View (where Google is headquartered), Alberta, Montreal, and Paris.

New York is home to several prestigious AI labs at universities including New York University and Cornell Tech. But beyond FAIR and Google AI, there aren’t many large industry AI labs in the city — Google Brain doesn’t have a significant presence there, for example.

Fergus is splitting his time across DeepMind and NYU, where he is a professor of computer science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He previously spent time at Oxford, MIT, and Caltech and has won a number of awards for his work. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, DeepMind has already hired several intellectual heavyweights in New York. Former Googler Christine Kaeser-Chen joined as a staff research engineer in February and Harvard graduate Ishita Dasgupta joined in December.

Joining the rival

DeepMind and FAIR have been battling it out to hire the best AI talent in the world for almost a decade. They’re hoping that these top AI researchers, who are sometimes paid around $1 million a year, will be able to create AI technology that can be harnessed by Google and Facebook, respectively.

Fergus co-founded FAIR, which is a direct rival to DeepMind, with AI pioneer Yann LeCun in 2013.

In Sept. 2018, when Fergus was at FAIR’s New York office, he said in an interview that he was spending most of his time recruiting research scientists. At the time, he said that virtually everyone FAIR makes a job offer to also has an offer from the likes of Google, Amazon or Intel.

He added that FAIR tries to attract people by talking about its close relationships with academia and Facebook’s product teams, as well as the fact that they open source the code on the vast majority of their research papers, which DeepMind hasn’t always done.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the list of people who have joined DeepMind in New York.





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