Chinese Researchers Shine in Apple’s 2024 AI Scholarship

More than half of this year’s recipients of Apple’s AI fellowship program are of Chinese origin, highlighting a brain drain that challenges the country’s aim to become a worldwide leader in this important technology.

According to a list published on Tuesday by Apple on its website, 11 of the 21 admitted to the 2024 Apple Scholars in AIML PhD fellowship, which is focused on machine learning, a branch of AI concerned with developing algorithms and statistical models for computer systems, are of Chinese origin, based on their names and academic backgrounds that include bachelor’s level studies on the mainland.

At least seven of the 11 fellowship winners finished their undergraduate studies on the mainland and pursued subsequent studies abroad, largely in the United States.

Under the program, each scholar will receive cash to pursue their PhD, as well as internship chances and supervision from an Apple researcher in their chosen subject.

“We are committed to supporting the academic research community by amplifying emerging leaders in their field and their cutting-edge machine learning research,” Apple stated in announcing this year’s fellowship awardees.

Apple Scholars in AIML are chosen based on their original research, track record as thought leaders and collaborators, and dedication to improving their respective disciplines, according to the US tech giant.

The increasing number of Chinese researchers allowed to that programme and other AI-related possibilities in America underlines the mainland’s ongoing problem with brain drain, as opposed to the US’s brain gain.

China’s goal of becoming “the world’s premier artificial intelligence innovation center” by 2030 may be jeopardized if talent continues to leave the country.

While China has increased its AI talent pool in recent years to satisfy rising local demand, the United States remains the leading destination for top-tier AI researchers, according to Chicago-based MacroPolo’s most recent AI Talent Tracker report, which compares global migration in 2022 to 2019. MacroPolo is affiliated with the Paulson Institute, an independent think tank specializing on US-China relations.

According to the report, China and the United States are the primary countries of origin for the world’s top-tier AI researchers, as defined by MacroPolo as the top 20% of such elite researchers with undergraduate degrees. China held a commanding 47 percent share in 2022, up from 29 percent in 2019. The US reached 18% in 2022, a decrease from 20% in 2019.

However, the United States continues to be the leading country in terms of top-tier AI research. In 2022, the US share increased to 42% from 59% in 2019. China increased its share to 28% in 2022, up from 11% in 2019.

According to MacroPolo data, China has become the largest place of origin for top-tier AI researchers working in US universities, accounting for 38% in 2022, up from 27% in 2019. The United States followed with a 37% share in 2022, up from 31% in 2019.

Within US universities, researchers of American and Chinese origin accounted for 75% of top-tier AI talent in 2022, up from 58% in 2019.

According to MacroPolo, over 60% of the world’s top AI institutes are located in the United States. These included Google, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Microsoft Research, and Meta Platforms.

According to MacroPolo, the vast majority of non-American AI talent remains in the United States after obtaining their PhDs. Chinese researchers who choose to work in the United States after receiving their PhD doubled to 8% in 2022 from 4% in 2019.

Although there is a significant demand for AI expertise on the mainland, there has been a shortage of qualified workers despite expanding prospects abroad. According to a research published late last year by Maimai, a career social network, only two competent people are available for every five new AI jobs in China.

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