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Newly launched Falcon Foundation wants to boost the development of open-source AI models across industries

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) utilizing Large Language Models (LLMs) has revolutionized multiple industries since its widespread availability in the early 2020s. Harnessing deep neural network systems, these models synthesize data and generate various creative outputs such as images, texts, and music. However, despite their immense commercial potential, LLMs have largely remained controlled by a handful of tech giants, such as OpenAI and Google.

 

Democratizing AI: The Falcon 40B

In a bid to counter this trend and democratize access to this technology, our member, the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), a leading global research center based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, created the Falcon 40B—an open-source generative AI model available completely royalty-free.

 

Falcon is trained on an extensive dataset of one trillion tokens, boasting over 40 billion parameters. Its open-source nature grants innovators, researchers, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to powerful LLMs capabilities to support technology development and research.

 

The Falcon Foundation

This year, TII took one step further on its pathway to develop open-source LLMs by launching the Falcon Foundation, which will support a community of innovators in customizing the model across industries. With an initial endowment of 300 million USD from TII, the foundation will finance initiatives that promote the development of open-source models and cultivate sustainable ecosystems around them.

"We believe that having access to these LLMs will help innovators and entrepreneurs come up with new ideas and initiatives that can power the economic capabilities of countries all over the world," says Dr. Hakim Hacid, Acting Chief Researcher for the AI Cross-Center Unit at TII.

 

Falcon Foundation operates under two models of engagement. The first is through Falcon Ambassadors, recruited professors and researchers from universities worldwide who study and develop generative AI models. The foundation offers robust computational resources and funds to support their research using Falcon LLMs.

A project is currently under development with universities in the United States, Canada, and China to create a new technology using Falcon to support DNA sequencing and predict future health risks.

The second engagement model involves a consortium track, where members collaborate within the Falcon Foundation to develop tech solutions for specific challenges. Similarly, the foundation provides equipment and financial support for research endeavors.

Fighting for open-source

Open-source models like Falcon are becoming increasingly rare. On the one hand, they are financially unviable and cannot sustain themselves without large amounts of funding and investments. On the other hand, mega-corporations that detain today's technology put pressure on smaller firms to go closed source and prevent the models from going public.

Falcon has been financed by the UAE government, and it is entirely free of charge. As a way to monetize the effort, Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) and VentureOne founded the startup AI71, which offers commercial solutions, such as AI data control options, built on the Falcon model for companies and countries.

While Dr. Hacid foresees that political pressure to enclose Falcon might become an issue in the future, he believes in the power of the community to push back against this trend and fight for the democratization and transparency of LLMs.

On its way to fulfilling its goal, attracting scarce and highly sought-after AI experts to the region remains challenging. "What will make the difference in this technological race is the investment in R&D and the capability to bring talent to the region to build the next generation of LLMs," says Dr. Hacid.

Falcon's Impact: Proven and Growing

In May 2023, Falcon 40B soared to the #1 spot on Hugging Face's global LLM leaderboard. Building on this success, TII launched Falcon 180B in September 2023, offering capabilities that rival closed models and solidifying its status as one of the most powerful LLMs publicly available.

These landmark achievements position the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) as a leader in democratizing AI globally. Their dedication to open-source development is further exemplified by the Falcon LLM series surpassing 43 million downloads on Hugging Face as of Q1 2024 – a testament to its wide-reaching influence.

TII Falcon GFCC Story.jpeg
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