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Google today announced that Google Cloud research credits, which give researchers access to computing resources via Google Cloud, are expanding to researchers at nonprofit institutions. Previously, only researchers at government and academic research institutions were eligible, limiting the scope of work that could be managed and analyzed using Google Cloud services.

“This initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to make the advantages of cloud research available to more people everywhere — and to drive more discoveries faster,” Google senior program manager for academic research Eleazar Ortiz wrote in a blog post. “We know that the researchers of the future need the best resources now.”

The use of big data and analytics is increasing across organizations, including those in the nonprofit sector. According to a PwrdBy survey, 73% of nonprofits believe AI innovation aligns with their missions and 75% believe AI makes their lives easier, particularly in areas like donor categorization, routine back-office tasks, and “mission-driven” initiatives. But there remain significant barriers for nonprofits looking to build their own AI solutions or adopt third-party products — chiefly cost, resources, and time.

“Nonprofits often lack the financial resources or organizational capabilities to innovate through technology,” reads a recent Brookings Institution study that identified finance, human resources, communications, fighting abusive behavior, and sustainability as applications for AI at nonprofit organizations. “Most nonprofits struggle with small budgets and inadequate staffing, and they fall behind the cutting edge of new technologies [like AI]. This limits their group’s efficiency and effectiveness and makes it difficult to have the kind of impact they would like.”

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Google Cloud credits

According to Google, centers including New York Genome Center, Scripps Research Institute, the Vector Institute in Toronto, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Allen Institute for AI are already using Google Cloud for big data and analytics workloads. EleutherAI, a research collective developing open source AI models, has also leveraged Google Cloud resources via the TPU Research Cloud, a program that supports data science research with the expectation that the results will be shared via code and models.

“Google Cloud has been essential for our research program. While we have an on-premise installation for custom hardware, the ability to use Google Cloud for isolated workstations (where researchers always have guaranteed access to a development environment) and bursting with increased need (such as our summer intern surge or a hyperparameter tuning just before our deadline) has been a critical part of conducting our research,” AI2 director of engineering Michael Schmitz said in a statement.

Google Cloud joins the handful of tech giants extending cloud compute resources to nonprofits. Microsoft Azure offers a compute program that provides $5,000 in yearly credits to eligible organizations. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services’ nonprofit credit program sets aside $1,000 in promotional credits for 501c(3) organizations and global equivalents.

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