AMHERST, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo says the institution has been a leader in super-computing and artificial intelligence research for several decades, even before people referred to the research as AI.

It expects to soon cement that position as the center of New York's new Empire AI consortium, connecting researchers at top public and private universities across the state.

"Just the fact that it's going to be UB and Buffalo is going to be the hub of these resources is already allowing us to recruit the best students and the buzz is out there," UB VP for Research and Economic Development Venu Govindaraju said.

The state said it has already secured $125 million from private partners and SUNY will kick in another $25 million. Another $250 million is earmarked in the still-yet-to-be-approved state budget, but state Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the investment will be there.

"This is ground-breaking," Peoples-Stokes said. "This is a big deal so I don't think there's anybody in state government now who's looking at this lightly."

Democrats in Western New York voiced their support Friday for the project. They said it puts the transformative technology in the hands of educators instead of just the private sector.

"This part, 'for the public good,' that's what makes me really comfortable and really excited and so happy that it's happening right here in Buffalo," Assemblymember Pat Burke said.

UB believes it can use AI to address important societal issues, potentially including things like childhood developmental disabilities, poverty and hunger. Govindaraju said most of the funding will go toward the vast computing and storage resources necessary for the latest wave of AI.

"It's going to allow access to those kinds of resources for small companies, big companies, for the faculty so we can all imagine and shape this evolution of AI," he said.

Others involved in the consortium besides SUNY and CUNY include Columbia, Cornell and NYU.