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British AI pioneers share £1 million in prizes as government unveils inaugural Manchester Prize finalists

Ten teams from across the country have been chosen as finalists of the inaugural Manchester Prize.

  • Ten teams driving forward the next AI innovations in energy and the environment awarded £100,000 each to develop their solutions
  • the multi-year challenge prize is rewarding UK-led breakthroughs in artificial intelligence for public good as the global AI community gathers for the AI Seoul Summit
  • one of the finalists will go on to win the £1 million grand prize next spring

Ten teams across the country have been chosen as finalists of the inaugural Manchester Prize, a prestigious challenge prize rewarding breakthroughs in AI for public good.

Announced by the Prime Minister as the AI Seoul Summit gets underway today (Tuesday 21 May), the finalists will each receive a share of £1 million to develop their solutions over the next eight months.

Focusing on energy, environment, and infrastructure in its inaugural year, teams in the running for the final £1 million prize are working on breakthroughs in artificial intelligence which could help address food security, improve how solar energy flows into the electricity grid, and revolutionise battery manufacturing.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:

With over 50,000 people already employed in the sector and billions expected to be generated for the UK economy over the next few years, the potential of AI innovation to help power our growth is huge.

That’s why this funding is one of the best investments we can make.

Viscount Camrose, Minister for AI and Intellectual Property said: 

This prize puts brilliant British AI innovation at the heart of addressing some of our biggest shared challenges. A decade-long commitment by the government, we are supporting our peerless AI talent with an annual £1 million grand prize to bring through the next wave of game-changing technological solutions.

I look forward to seeing our finalists develop their solutions further over the coming months, as we look to harness the incredible potential of AI to bring about transformative change in the fields of energy, the environment, and infrastructure.

Among the finalists of the Manchester Prize are:

  • Quartz Solar AI Nowcasting by Open Climate Fix: Leveraging AI to forecast cloud formation, enhancing the integration of solar energy into the electricity grid.
  • CRE.AI.TIVE by Phytoform Labs: Addressing food security challenges through AI-driven discovery of crop traits resilient to climate change.
  • Greyparrot Insight by Greyparrot.ai: Employing AI waste analytics to map global waste flows, driving improvements in recycling and packaging design.
  • Polaron by Polaron: Revolutionizing battery manufacturing through AI-driven analysis of advanced materials.

In its inaugural year, the Manchester Prize called upon the ingenuity of innovators, academics, entrepreneurs, and disruptors to submit their solutions utilising AI for public benefit. The prize garnered nearly 300 entries from UK-led teams, showcasing a diverse array of groundbreaking ideas.

The finalists will each receive prizes of £100,000 to further develop their projects over the next eight months. Additionally, they will benefit from comprehensive support packages, including funding for computing resources, investor readiness support, and access to a network of experts, positioning them for success in the pursuit of the £1 million grand prize in spring 2025.

The potential of AI-powered innovation to fuel economic growth is immense, with estimates suggesting it could generate £400 billion for the UK economy by 2030. Already, over 50,000 individuals are employed in the AI sector, and with projected market growth exceeding 15% in the next six years, there are vast opportunities for new businesses to thrive and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

The UK is already seeing the results of how AI can drive investment in its economy, with the recent announcement that British AI company Wayve has received a $1.05 billion investment to develop the next generation of AI-powered self-driving vehicles.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Manchester Prize judge said:

British innovators have been pivotal to the advancement of computer and information technology that has transformed the world we live in. AI has the potential to support productivity, improve delivery of public services, make our national infrastructure work better, and accelerate the transition to a net zero economy. Choosing only ten finalists from such a diverse field of applications was tough; picking a winner will be even harder. I’m looking forward to seeing how the ideas develop in the next few months.

With AI already starting to unlock enormous opportunities in tackling climate change, transforming healthcare, and beyond, the Manchester Prize looks to spark more cutting-edge innovations in using AI for good, which will deliver real change for people across the country.

The UK is committed to fostering innovation and harnessing the transformative power of AI for the betterment of society. As these projects continue to evolve and make strides towards tangible impacts, they serve as testament to the UK’s position at the forefront of AI innovation on the global stage.

To find out more about the Manchester Prize and follow the progress of all ten finalists, visit manchesterprize.org.

Notes to editors

Full list of Manchester Prize finalists

Aiolus (by the University of Warwick)

The UK aims to have 50GW of wind energy capacity by 2030 – however digital and control technologies have not kept pace to maximise the operational efficiency of wind farms. Aiolus leverages AI and creates digital twins to enhance wind farm operations and predict maintenance needs, boosting energy capacity, lowering the average cost of electricity for people and accelerating the UK towards its Net Zero target. Aiolus projects a 10-20% increase in power production, and a 3-5% rise in annual energy output.

AssetScan

Using AI to find and track defects in infrastructure and large buildings (by CC Informatics) - AssetScan by CC Informatics is an AI system which aims to identify defects in buildings and infrastructure assets from large photographic datasets, such as those collected by uncrewed aerial vehicles (drones), using an image-to-image processing technique. Manual review of these large datasets would be expensive and time consuming. AssetScan automatically detects changes in structure condition to target effective maintenance at the earliest opportunity.

CRE.AI.TIVE (by Phytoform Labs)

With the impacts of climate change threatening global food security, Phytoform Labs uses its proprietary CRE.AI.TIVE platform to discover drought tolerant, disease resistant and yield boosting traits for a diverse variety of crops. CRE.AI.TIVE is a ‘foundational genomics model’, that learns about the genome of plants and accelerates the search for useful mutations to increase the resilience of crops.

EvoPhase Explore (by Evophase)

EvoPhase Explore, is an innovative AI-driven solution designed to optimise the design and operation of industrial equipment. It leverages evolutionary algorithms to reduce energy consumption, minimise waste, and enhance overall efficiency in manufacturing processes. HARPPP (Highly-Automated Rapid Prototyping for Particulate Processing) is the proprietary AI technology behind EvoPhase Explore, employing evolutionary algorithms and four-dimensional modelling to optimise equipment designs and processing conditions. Allowing for scalability through new equipment design and retrofitting existing equipment for enhanced performance.

gAIn Water (by UKCRIC)

gAIn Water leverages advanced predictive AI technologies to integrate real-time sensor data from the UK’s water network with environmental and demographic inputs, including weather, soil conditions, pipe integrity, and population trends. This facilitates precise water demand forecasts, timely alerts for system failures, and identification of potential supply shortages. The system dynamically optimises water flow and maintenance schedules to significantly reduce leaks and lower energy consumption, offering measurable benefits to water utilities, governing bodies, and communities across the UK. 

Greyparrot Insight (by Greyparrot.ai)

The Greyparrot AI waste analytics system “sees’’ and tracks every piece of waste entering a sorting or recycling plant via monitoring units positioned over conveyor belts. The AI identifies seven layers of detail about each waste item – including the material type, brand and carbon footprint based on its end of life – and does this faster, more accurately, and around 250 times cheaper than manual alternatives. It aims to create a complete digital map of the world’s waste flows to track what happens when waste is discarded and support the value chain to improve packaging design, policy making and recycling rates.

Polaron

Accelerating the design of advanced materials with generative AI (by Polaron) - Developing advanced materials is a traditionally slow and inefficient process. Polaron uses AI algorithms to rapidly analyse potential material designs and identify the best manufacturing processes to maximise performance. Applied to battery electrodes, Polaron’s technology can yield a 10% increase in power, while reducing the cost by more than 50%, revolutionising battery manufacturing and unlocking the next-generation of materials. 

Quartz Solar AI Nowcasting (by Open Climate Fix)

Due to cloud cover, solar power generation can be unpredictable. This entry uses AI to forecast cloud formation hours ahead of time, allowing solar energy to be more efficiently integrated into the electricity grid through better prediction of periods of intermittent supply. By leveraging satellite imagery and live solar generation data, it helps better manage solar energy resources and balance a renewables heavy grid. This more efficient approach to renewable energy management can help the UK to decarbonise faster.

Sapphire

Improving river and bathing water quality (by HR Wallingford) - Increasing urbanisation and changes to rainfall patterns due to climate change are putting greater pressure on the UK’s wastewater network, impacting water quality in our rivers. Sapphire, created by HR Wallingford, will be an AI tool to help reduce water pollution from storm overflows, agriculture, and urban spaces. It will integrate observed data and computer model outputs into an AI platform, incorporating more sources of pollution, and producing faster results than traditional methods. It aims to enable water companies to better understand the impact of storm overflows and manage flows more effectively, ultimately resulting in better water quality across the nation.

TraffEase (by Transhumanity)

Cities generate vast amounts of transport and urban mobility data, but too often its complexity means little is done with it. TraffEase AI integrates this multi-source data to provide predictive traffic analytics to inform decision making for efficient and green mobility. The platform supports intuitive natural language queries, making it accessible for non-experts. This empowers city authorities to effectively manage transport to enhance the journey experience for the public. 

About the Manchester Prize

The Manchester Prize is a multi-million-pound challenge prize from the UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) that rewards UK-led breakthroughs in artificial intelligence for public good. Every year for a decade, it will reward innovations that will help to transform the lives of the people across the UK and continue to secure the UK’s place as a global leader in cutting edge innovation.

The Manchester Prize delivered by Challenge Works, a global leader in designing and delivering high-impact challenge prizes that incentivise cutting-edge innovation for social good - part of UK innovation foundation Nesta. Visit: manchesterprize.org.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-science-innovation-and-technology

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/british-ai-pioneers-share-1-million-in-prizes-as-government-unveils-inaugural-manchester-prize-finalists

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