Maine Looks to Make AI a Main Effort

Is Maine becoming the next Silicon Valley? Sure looks like it.


Steve Kelly

6/8/20225 min read

Artificial Intelligence in Maine

Artificial intelligence is a popular and growing field, with each year we see vast improvements in the technologies and software available to do artificial intelligence research. We can see this being done in states we normally wouldn't think of, such as the great New England state of Maine. Maine is known for its blueberries, coasts, lakes, and of course, Maine lobster. Maine used to be a giant in the lumber industry when all the timber mills were running, which have now gone under since the 1970s and 1980s.

The state of Maine is considered "Vacationland", where notable people go on vacation to get away from the busy life of the cities. Former president George H.W. Bush had a home in Kittery and used to summer there for many decades with his family. The state of Maine is also the homeplace of the author Stephen King, famous for his novels and the many movie adaptations of his movies. While these are nice facts to know, the main focus of interest is how technological development is coming from a state that historically hasn't made much of an impact on technology, as compared to Silicon Valley.

University of Maine AI Research

There are numerous universities and colleges in the state of Maine, the state's main (pun intended) flagship university, University of Maine at Orono, has a terrific program in place for artificial intelligence research. The University of Maine - Orono has 38 researchers working in artificial intelligence research, and their areas of expertise are wide-spread.

Most of the researchers are professors in fields like electrical and computer engineering, computer and information science, spatial informatics, and physics. Some are in fields you wouldn't expect to be working on artificial intelligence: chemistry, business analytics, civil and environmental engineering, earth and climate sciences, chemistry, and mathematics.

As you can see, Maine has a great number of researchers solely at the University of Maine - Orono, conducting studies and working on ai systems.

The University of Maine has also recently started a webinar series on AI research. In 2021 there were three webinars with the first webinar presented in September titled "AI in Cyber Security". Other examples of their webinars are "AI in Space and Aerospace" in October 2021, "AI in Healthcare" in November 2021, and more recently they held ones in February of 2022, with one in March titled "AI in Art", and the most recent one in April, "Explainable AI: Hopes and Hypes in Healthcare".

These webinars have had a number of guest speakers and presenters, notably, Bill Leigher a retired Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, Scott McGaunn, a special agent with the Boston branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nargess Memarsadeghi, the AI Center for Excellent Lead at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and Hongfang Liu, a professor of Biomedical Information at the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the Mayo Clinic.

An excerpt from the UMaine website states "To help Maine capitalize on the social and economic benefits of this emerging field of technology, UMaine launched an initiative to make the state a hub for AI research, education and use." This program is called "Programming for Progress". Most of the efforts in this AI research is aimed at environmental social responsibility, or environmental and conservation efforts. With projects aimed at defending cities against flooding, collecting data to protect and preserve forests, as well as developing novel materials for energy storage. This article is recently from 2021, but initiatives have been made in the past.

With the MaineSAIL laboratory, Maine Software Agents and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a part of the University of Maine - Orono School of Computing and Information Science, they are dedicating resources and time to artificial intelligence efforts. It is still up and running, and is touted as "the center of research in general artificial intelligence and multiagent systems at the University of Maine, and one of the AI labs in the School working on deep learning"

Roux Institute at Northeastern University

The Roux Institute at Northeastern University is dedicating themselves to improving artificial intelligence opportunities, in both research and industry across northern New England. This project will expand from the city of Boston to the quieter coastal city of Portland, Maine. The mayor of Portland had this to say about the initiative

"The Roux Institute gives us an opportunity to have deeper engagement with existing businesses -- and to expand new ones. We're building a talent pool that responds to the needs of tech companies." - Kate Snyder, Mayor of Portland Maine.

The Roux Institute was launched in 2020 to partner with Maine companies to "equip the workforce with essential tech skills and advance research and development". They look to further establish technological innovation in the New England region.

This institute was founded by David and Barbara Roux who "saw opportunities to transform Portland, Maine into a hub for nurturing talent and innovation in AI and other tech-forward fields."

There is a campus that was created in 2020 in the city's Old Port community, with a plan to create a permanent campus by 2024. This campus provides teaching and research opportunities, driving further initiatives to transform the great city of Portland into a city with future-forward thinking.

While some Mainers may not be all that excited for more people coming into the state, this is surely going to bring educated prospects into the state known as Vacationland. Furthermore, more companies are going to come into the state and change the aging economy, bringing more revenue and wealth for those living in the area.

Colby College

Colby College is a private university in the town of Waterville, Maine with a student population in the low thousands. It was considered by Forbes in 2019 to be 75th in its top colleges in the United States and has an acceptance rate of 13%. This makes it an Ivy League level school and is highly renowned in Maine as an elite college for students to go to.

The Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence was announced in early 2021, and is the first multi-disciplinary artificial intelligence institute at a liberal arts college in the United States.

The Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence will focus on five main areas: economics and finance, computational social sciences, computational biology, bioinformatics, and genetics, the environment and the oceans, as well as ethics and society.

The institutes homepage states "Silicon Valley needs a breath of fresh Maine air." We could not agree more.

There is a lot to excited about with Colby College's fresh artificial intelligence center, and the future looks brighter for Maine to become a technological hub in the near-future.

Great efforts are being made to turn Maine into a main hub of technology in the artificial intelligence field. We're excited to see Vacationland transform into New England's Technology Hub. More to come.

To see more about UMaine AI click here.

A sign saying "Welcome to Maine - The way life should be"
A sign saying "Welcome to Maine - The way life should be"
An image of the University of Maine's Artificial Intelligence program logo.
An image of the University of Maine's Artificial Intelligence program logo.