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£54m to develop secure AI that can help solve major challenges

UK’s position as a pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI) technology boosted by the announcement of a series of investments in the field.

Investments include:

  • £31 million for consortium to create a UK and international research and innovation ecosystem for responsible and trustworthy AI
  • £2 million for 42 projects’ feasibility studies in businesses as part of the BridgeAI programme
  • £13 million to fund 13 projects to help the UK meet its net zero targets
  • £8 million for two Turing AI World Leading Researcher Fellowships

Bringing academic and industry partners together

During this year’s London Tech Week, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) unveiled a suite of AI investments that will bring academic and industry partners together.

AI is identified by the government as a critical technology as set out in the UK Science and Technology Framework. It is a rapidly developing science and technology area with massive potential benefits to the economy and society.

These new investments, through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund and Turing AI World Leading Researcher Fellowships scheme, continue to build and expand the UK’s global strengths in AI. They also work towards AI that acts for the public good and in pursuit of solving global challenges.

Responsive to the needs of society

As part of this announcement package, £31 million has been awarded to a large consortium called Responsible AI UK. The consortium is led by the University of Southampton. It aims to create a UK and international research and innovation ecosystem for responsible and trustworthy AI that will be responsive to the needs of society.

Led by Professor Gopal Ramchurn, the consortium will pioneer a reflective, inclusive approach to responsible AI development, working across universities, businesses, public and third sectors and the general public.

It will fund multidisciplinary research that helps us understand what responsible and trustworthy AI is, how to develop it and build it into existing systems, and the impacts it will have on society.

Deploying AI solutions responsibly

The consortium will convene national conversations on responsible AI and help cohere the AI ecosystem across the whole of the UK. They will work closely with policymakers to provide evidence for future policy and regulation, as well as guidance for businesses in deploying AI solutions responsibly.

Their activities will encompass:

  • large-scale research programmes
  • collaborations between academics and businesses
  • skills programmes for the public and industry
  • the publication of white papers outlining approaches for the UK and global AI landscape

Trusted and responsible AI

In addition, £2 million will be awarded to 42 projects to carry out feasibility studies in businesses as part of the BridgeAI programme.

These will accelerate the adoption of trusted and responsible AI and machine learning (ML) technologies. Projects will look at developing a range of tools to facilitate assessment of AI technologies with regards to:

  • governance
  • fairness
  • accountability
  • transparency
  • explainability
  • safety
  • interpretability
  • privacy and security

Successful projects will go on to receive a share of an additional £19 million to develop these AI solutions further.

Meeting net zero targets

A further £13 million will be used to fund 13 projects to help the UK meet its net zero targets. These projects will be led by universities across the UK, from Edinburgh to Aberystwyth, and Leicester to Southampton.

Projects will look at developing AI technologies to:

  • have more sustainable land management
  • accelerate energy efficient carbon dioxide capture
  • improve resilience for natural hazards and extreme events potentially leading to reduced energy bills for UK energy consumers
  • accelerate selection of biofuel crops with high yields that are climate resistance and will minimise environmental impact

Outcomes will help to develop new ways of reducing the UK’s carbon footprint, and potentially leading to reduced energy bills for UK energy consumers.

Two new fellowships

Finally, UKRI has also awarded two new Turing AI World Leading Researcher Fellowships. These prestigious fellowships build on the first five fellows announced in 2021.

Professor Michael Bronstein and Professor Alison Noble, both based at the University of Oxford, will conduct ground-breaking work on some of AI’s biggest challenges.

Professor Michael Bronstein will develop a novel mathematical framework for geometric and graph ML. Applying these new methods will help address some of the most challenging problems in the domains of drug and food design. This includes developing new therapeutic molecules or mapping the ‘dark matter’ of food-based bioactive ingredients.

Exploring implications of AI

Professor Alison Noble’s research will work towards new AI for shared human-machine decision-making in healthcare imaging including studying ethics of AI and its trustworthiness (explaining decisions).

The research will also develop human skill models of clinical tasks by applying ML-based analysis to video and other sensor data. This work will encourage greater interaction between UK academia and industry in healthcare imaging and allied areas as well as explore implications on how AI adoption is changing expectations on human skills.

Strengths in science and technology

These AI investments will be delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK working with all council’s on behalf of UKRI.

They will help maintain and grow the UK’s international position in a highly competitive global market.

Success will attract diverse global talent and incentivise further private investment in the UK’s research and innovation system, ensuring greater UK advantage comes from the country’s strengths in science and technology.

One of our top priorities

Chloe Smith MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:

The safe and responsible development of AI is one of the government’s top priorities and this announcement is a substantial investment in that mission, complementing our existing work such as the global summit on AI safety, the Foundation Model Taskforce, and implementing our AI regulatory framework.

In recognition of the enormous benefits it can have across wider society, we are also supporting projects which help us reach our net zero ambitions. Through two new Turing AI fellowships, we are placing our unrivalled British academic expertise at the heart of ground-breaking work on some of the biggest challenges in the field, ensuring our AI workforce stays at the cutting edge.

Investing in people and organisations

Kedar Pandya, Executive Director, Cross-Council Programmes at EPSRC, said:

The UK’s expertise in the field of AI is a major asset to the country and will help develop the science and technology that will shape the fabric of many areas of our lives. That is why UKRI is continuing to invest in the people and organisations that will have wide-ranging benefit.

For this to be successful we must invest in research and systems in which can have trust and confidence, and ensure these considerations are integrated in all aspects of the work as it progresses. The projects and grants announced will help us achieve this goal.

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