Researchers from Scottish universities are part of a group sharing a £20 million funding pot to develop artificial intelligence (AI) research.
Named after scientists Alan Turing, The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will accelerate and support 15 of Britain’s top researchers with the hope of building and strengthening Britain’s position in AI on the international stage.
Among the recipients of the fellowships are researchers Dr Antonio Hurtado, Senior Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde’s Institute of Photonics, and Dr Jeff Dalton from the University of Glasgow.
Dr Hurtado will use the funding to support the development of ultra-fast AI technologies for medicine, security, and renewable energy, while Dr Dalton is looking to improve the capabilities and performance of virtual personal assistants.
Commenting on his work, Dr Hurtado said: “In today’s world, the ability to process vast amounts of data fast and efficiently is crucial in sectors such as energy, healthcare and finance. AI systems are key tools to make sense of huge volumes of data but consume very high levels of energy and increasingly contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Operating in a similar way to the biological neurons that process information in the brain, the new photonic devices will be able to process data at high speeds while reducing energy consumption, helping the UK to meet its net-zero carbon ambitions by 2050.
“The new technology’s potential capability to perform complex computational tasks at ultrafast speed could see it used across a range of sectors – from meteorology forecasting to processing images at very fast rates for medical diagnostics.”
Dr Dalton added: “Being awarded the Turing AI Acceleration fellowship is an incredible honour and we are very excited by the opportunity to accelerate progress on the next generation of virtual assistants that will transform our economy and society.
“This award is key in building a world-leading research group in Scotland with state-of-the-art deep-learning hardware for conversational AI that will enable us to perform large-scale experiments on real-world datasets to maximize impact.”
The Fellowships aim to increase collaboration between academia and industry, with each fellow bringing together a wide range of partners on their projects to accelerate the impact of their AI technologies. Partners have already committed to cash and in-kind contributions more than £10 million.
UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we have a duty to arm the next generation of Alan Turings with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.
“The inspirational fellows we are backing today will use AI to tackle some of our greatest challenges head-on, transforming how people live, work and communicate, cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.”
The scheme will be delivered by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute and Office for Artificial intelligence.
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The funding comes after the publication of the government’s research and development roadmap in June this year, which committed investment in research and supporting the UK’s risk-takers to scale up their innovations.
UK Digital Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The UK is a nation of innovators and this government investment will help our talented academics use cutting-edge technology to improve people’s daily lives – from delivering better disease diagnosis to managing our energy needs.”
EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: “The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will support some of our leading researchers to progress their careers and develop ground-breaking AI technologies with societal impact.
“By enhancing collaboration between academia and industry and accelerating these transformative technologies these Fellowships will help to maintain and build on the UK’s position as a world leader in AI.”