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Demand Booms for AI Employees in OC

During an 11-month stretch last year in Orange County, Boeing had 715 job postings requiring skills in artificial intelligence, followed by Amazon with 465, and Anduril, 366.

“While AI and tech companies are of course looking for skilled AI talent, demand is coming from all industries,” according to a study published on May 23 by the CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County.

“Organizations with the most job postings with AI skills came from aerospace, telecommunications, financial services, retail, and the public sector, among others.”

The leadership alliance, composed of some of Orange County’s best-known entrepreneurs and executives, said the increased demand for such talent is outpacing OC’s supply. The report said the need for AI experts in Orange County is putting pressure on businesses and universities to keep up the pace.

“There’s going to be a 50% unmet need,” Jasmine Pachnanda, a co-author of the study and chief operating officer of the alliance, told the Business Journal. “We didn’t exactly predict out for AI roles, but we know that in general, 50% of tech roles in Orange County will go unfulfilled.”

She said in an update that the organization has been getting a lot of requests “to do more to highlight the work on AI in OC.”

Unmet Need

AI has moved into a variety of fields, from self-driving vehicles to customer service chatbots to disease detection to robotic surgeries. In Orange County, the AI fields most in demand include motion planning, remote sensing, unmanned aerial systems and robotic systems, the study said.

“OC is an AI hub, but we need to continue to build upon the components of an AI hub,” Pachnanda said.

“So, the companies here need to be leveraging AI and be leaders in AI.”

The study was drawn from interviews and surveys of OC employers, along with analysis of third-party data. The organization partnered with McKinsey & Company on this study.

The study showed that 2,917 AI investment deals were made in Orange County from 2020-23. While per capita investment averaging $230 per person in Orange County was higher than $78 per person in Cook County, Ill., it was lower than the $478 person in San Diego County.

The study found that nearly $3 billion in capital was invested in AI deals from 2020-23.

Most of those investments, 67%, went to Costa Mesa-based Anduril Industries, a defense startup that’s nearing a $12.5 billion valuation by using artificial intelligence in its weapons.

Other companies receiving significant investments include data analytics provider Alteryx Inc., medical diagnostic firm Helio Genomics, chipmaker Syntiant Corp. and cybersecurity firm Obsidian, the study said, citing PitchBook.

“For local investors, first-time founders, and aspiring entrepreneurs, this vibrant ecosystem offers unparalleled opportunities, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence.

Whether in established companies or burgeoning startups, the potential for growth and innovation in AI here is immense,” Ike Kavas, founder of Ephesoft, said in the report.

The Coalition

Irvine-based CLAOC is a coalition of more than 60 CEOs and entrepreneurs “working together to solve our county’s most urgent problems and build a thriving Orange County for all.”

Its members include Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, Ingram Micro CEO Paul Bay, Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President Payman Roshan, Pimco CEO Emmanuel Roman, Pacific Life CEO Darryl Button and Mitsubishi Electric CEO Michael Corbo.

A prominent member of the alliance’s AI working group is Keith Strier, an Orange County resident who is vice president of worldwide AI initiatives at Nvidia, the world’s predominant maker of graphic chips used in artificial intelligence.

Strier is responsible for Nvidia’s strategic and commercial engagements with foreign governments and leads the company’s AI Nations Initiative, facilitating public-private partnerships that help governments build sovereign AI capabilities to drive economic growth.

“Working together, we are cracking the code on development of a strong AI talent pipeline here in OC and closing the talent gap,” Strier said in the report. “Closer partnerships between education and industry increase visibility around in-demand skills so we have the talent we need to fuel AI innovation and create a thriving AI ecosystem.”

Strier and the CLAOC last year helped install a Nvidia supercomputer, what may be the fastest in Orange County, capable of doing 8 quadrillion calculations a second at Chapman University in Orange.

Nvidia donated the computer to help students from lower-income areas gain access to the latest computing technology, and to expand the region’s pipeline of artificial intelligence tech workers. Strier at that time said it was “the first community operated supercomputer” in the country.

AI Requirements

The CLAOC report comes as many organizations seek to position OC as a hub for tech, including AI.

“The average number of active OC job postings requiring at least one AI job skill has outpaced the rates of peer regions for tech and for non-tech roles,” the report said.

The peer regions include the well-known tech centers of Austin, Texas and Silicon Valley.

OC’s Universities Key to Local AI Supply

Orange County’s business leaders are counting on local universities to meet an ever-increasing demand for artificial intelligence experts.

“A lot of talent is already coming from UCI,” said Jasmine Pachnanda, the Chief Operating Officer of the CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County.

The other major university sources of talent are Chapman University and California State University, Fullerton.

“All three universities are going to be critical to continuing to uplift OC as an AI hub.”

OC Companies Boosting AI

CHOC

Clinical development of AI tools at Children’s Hospital of Orange County includes applications for hospital readmission, analyzing rising risk for a variety of medical conditions, and in early identification of sepsis. The team is also exploring applications for AI in pediatric mental health, cardiac care and a variety of promising predictive use cases.

HEALTHCARE

City of Hope OC

Having applied AI for the past five-plus years to clinical decision-making, business operations, and precision medicine, City of Hope Orange County is using AI to improve patient lives and outcomes.

Helio Genomics

Helio Genomics in Irvine completed a clinical trial to validate its flagship product, HelioLiver, built on the power of AI modeling. Stanford Medicine acted as lead investigator.

Medtronic

Medtronic, with operations in Irvine, uses machine-learning algorithms to help filter noise from the body and external environment to capture BrainSense signals in its neurostimulators. The company is also using AI to understand the unique physiologic signals from the brain and spine.

FINANCE

Pimco

Since 2015, Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. (Pimco) has leveraged machine learning and natural language processing techniques to enhance investment insights, enrich client experiences and optimize operations. AI is deployed through enterprise tools, such as Vera, Pimco’s GPT-4 proprietary environment, customized tools built for specific business use cases such as chatbots, multimodal information summarization, and insights extraction, as well as proprietary sentiment analysis.

EDUCATION

Cyrano.ai

Newport Beach-based Cyrano.ai introduces a conversational AI platform that provides real-time artificial empathy, improving customer interactions and leading to increases in sales efficiency and engagement.

Eon Reality

Eon Reality, based in Irvine, leverages AI to create the world’s largest AR/VR immersive learning library, enhancing knowledge transfer for students and professionals globally. Every employee is learning to use AI. It has 45 million downloads to date and every employee is learning to use AI.

TECHNOLOGY

Alteryx

Irvine-based Alteryx Inc. integrates generative AI into its Analytics Cloud Platform, significantly accelerating data analysis and decision-making. This strategic AI deployment underlines the transformative impact of AI on analytics efficiency and governance.

Skyworks

Skyworks Solutions Inc. in Irvine is focused on the access to data both internally and externally when it comes to AI. The team is pulling in data from many areas of the business—manufacturing, sales and customer service, financial, HR—to analyze using machine learning. They have a technical team in place to ready data from varied sources, so it’s ready to be consumed by machine learning tools.

Trace3

Trace3 LLC infuses AI across services to innovate business solutions, like its collaboration with the Detroit Lions to enhance fan experiences. Emphasizing “ingest to insights,” Trace3’s AI application showcases the fusion of consultancy with technology. Irvine-based Trace3 has grown to a $2.8 billion company since its founding in 2002.

Syntiant

Irvine-based Syntiant Corp. collaborates with GlobalSense to introduce an edge AI solution for automotive safety, utilizing sound-based machine learning for real-time alerts and predictive maintenance. This innovative application shows the potential of Edge AI to enhance vehicle security and passenger safety. The smart sensor solution was demoed at Imagine 2023, demonstrating great cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency.

DEFENSE

Anduril

Costa Mesa-based Anduril Industries made Roadrunner, a jet-powered AI drone that is revolutionizing U.S. military capabilities with its modular design and reusable “boomerang” technology. Developed rapidly through AI, it’s a cost-effective solution for countering aerial threats. The U.S. Special Operations Command paid $12.5 million for “Roadrunner CUxS Hardware.”

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