Seven CS faculty members won the first Roberts Innovation Fund Awards

February 22, 2023

New and innovative methods of controlling cells with artificial intelligence, securing cryptocurrency and blockchain systems, and advancing natural language processing are just some of the projects funded by the first Roberts Innovation Fund Awards, providing $500,000 of accelerator funding to support 10 new inventions led by faculty from Yale’s School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS).

This is the inaugural cohort of the Roberts Innovation Fund, an accelerator fund created in 2022 and managed by Yale Ventures, that focuses on supporting technologies that show promise toward having an impact within the data-intensive domains of artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, trustworthy computing, computational modeling and more. In addition to funding, awardees receive world-class support and mentorship, access to industry experts, up to $20,000 in AWS credits and an opportunity to present at the upcoming Yale Innovation Summit on May 31st.

The Roberts Innovation Fund marks the School’s latest initiative to amplify its culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. In line with the SEAS Strategic Vision, it’s designed to create an ecosystem that brings to market discoveries that will benefit humanity.

“The large number of excellent proposals that have been developed by our faculty clearly illustrate the pent up demand for these opportunities,” said SEAS Dean Jeffrey Brock. “Yale’s Engineering faculty have always generated a wealth of great research, and now we have a strong mechanism to take their breakthrough technologies from the lab to market.”

In contrast to other awards where only one “winner” is chosen, the Roberts Innovation Fund took a cohort approach, which proved beneficial given the strong interest and quality of submissions, according to the Fund’s Director, Claudia Reuter.

“Taking a domain-focused cohort approach allows us to optimize and align resources in support of a group of awardees.” Reuter said. “We are incredibly excited to acknowledge the impactful work of the Roberts Innovation Fund awardees and look forward to supporting them on their journeys.”

ZK4ALL, a project led by computer science professor Ruzica Piskac, is creating a standard programming framework for working efficiently with cloud-ready zero-knowledge proofs, allowing authentication systems to prove one party’s knowledge of a statement without revealing any additional information. Piskac looks forward to translating her research into real-world applications to create a safer digital future.

“It is too often the case that beneficial academic work remains in the shadows long before any commercialization is realized,” she said. “We are extremely excited to see what opportunities will be available for our team’s inventions with the help from the Roberts Innovation Fund. Our work will enable developers to create and deploy sophisticated cryptographic protocols more easily and the Roberts Initiative is undoubtedly crucial in achieving this.” 

The Roberts Innovation Fund is open to Yale faculty with a primary or secondary appointment in the School of Engineering & Applied Science with a novel innovation that is solving a significant problem with the potential for scale. Applicants must demonstrate a proof of concept and a clear articulation for the use of the awarded funds.

Roberts Innovation Fund 2022-2023 - Awarded Projects

Combining DEFI & AI for Intelligent Credit Scoring
Transforming the decentralized finance landscape and alleviating transaction risk via quantifying participant’s credit  
Leandros Tassiulas - Electrical Engineering 

CRAIG: Computed Radiology Reporting with AI-assisted Generation 
AI-assisted radiology report simplification & summarization 
Arman Cohan - Computer Science / Sophie Chheang - Clinical Radiology and Biomedical Imaging (Co-PIs) 

Deep learning for quantification of lower extremity flow & viability  
Albert Sinusas, MD - Cardiology and Biomedical Engineering 

Disaggregated Clouds 
Cost-effective and performant cloud platform and a radically new network-centric OS to manage it 
Anurag Khandelwal - Computer Science  

Non-interactive cross-chain state proofs  
Charalampos Papamanthou - Computer Science  

Moir AI Sciences  
Controlling cellular dynamics with artificial intelligence  
Smita Krishnaswamy - Computer Science & Genetics  

Physics_Based Algorithm MRI  
Inexpensive large-scale AI for prostate cancer using MR physics 
Gigi Galiana & Hemant Tagare - Radiology & Biomedical Imaging and Biomedical Engineering (Co-PIs)  

User-centric presentation of hybrid information using large language models  
Dragomir Radev - Computer Science  

Low-bandwidth anonymous broadcast from (dis)trusted execution environments 
Fan Zhang - Computer Science 

Establishing a standard programming framework for working efficiently with cloud-ready zero-knowledge proofs  
Ruzica Piskac - Computer Science 

About the Roberts Innovation Fund
The Roberts Innovation Fund, made possible by a generous gift from Yale alumnus Will Roberts ’90, provides grant funding, mentoring and business training to assist in the commercialization of breakthrough inventions from Yale SEAS faculty-led projects that solve real-world problems. The Fund was founded in 2022 to help accelerate the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science’s engine of innovation.