Edinburgh University will establish two new AI research hubs launched by the UK Government today in an £80 million funding round supporting advanced tech.
The university will set up the AI Hub for Productive Research and Innovation in Electronics (APRIL) alongside the AI Hub for Causality in Healthcare AI with Real Data (CHAI).
APRIL will focus on developing AI tools to accelerate the development of key components such as new semiconductor materials, complex microchip designs and system architectures – leading to faster, cheaper, greener and overall more power-efficient electronics.
It will be led by Edinburgh’s Regius Chair of Engineering, Professor Themis Prodromakis.
CHAI aims to develop AI that can empower decision making tools to improve challenging tasks such as the early prediction, diagnosis and prevention of disease, and – crucially – to improve the safety of such technology in healthcare. It will be led by Professor Sotirios Tsaftaris, Canon Medical/RAEng Chair in Healthcare AI.
Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: “Successful and ethical applications of AI in healthcare diagnosis and power-efficient electronics could help to address key societal issues, such as our ageing population, global energy use and climate change.
“It is an honour and a great opportunity for our engineers to be leading two of EPSRC’s AI research hubs and I very much look forward to seeing what the future brings in terms of new technologies and innovations in AI.”
Both hubs will receive £12m each from the EPSRC and will involve researchers from the University’s School of Informatics, School of Mathematics, the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine with input from the Bayes Centre – the University’s innovation hub for data science and AI. Edinburgh experts will also play key roles in two other AI hubs announced by the government.
The university will benefit to the tune of £24 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Of the nine centres announced as part of EPSRC’s £80m UK-wide investment in applying AI to real world data and research, Edinburgh will lead or be involved in more than half, further cementing its place as a driving force in the development of AI in the UK.
Other Scottish universities will also benefit A further ten scoping studies have been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), also part of UKRI. The studies will help to define responsible AI across education, policing and the creative industries. The University of Glasgow will lead on ‘iREAL: inclusive requirements elicitation for AI in libraries to support respectful management of indigenous knowledges, specifically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.’
The University of the West of Scotland and St Andrews University will support led by Newcastle University as the ‘national edge AI hub for real data: edge intelligence for cyber-disturbances and data quality’.
Collectively, the hubs will support British AI expertise in harnessing the technology across areas including healthcare, chemistry, and mathematics.
Ministers announced a £100 million package of measures to ‘propel transformative innovations’ in the technology, support regional research and underpin ‘agile’ regulation.
The measures were unveiled as part of the UK Government’s AI Regulation White Paper consultation response, and aims to make Britain a global leader in AI safety.
Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation, and technology, said:
“The UK’s innovative approach to AI regulation has made us a world leader in both AI safety and AI development.
“I am personally driven by AI’s potential to transform our public services and the economy for the better – leading to new treatments for cruel diseases like cancer and dementia, and opening the door to advanced skills and technology that will power the British economy of the future.
“AI is moving fast, but we have shown that humans can move just as fast. By taking an agile, sector-specific approach, we have begun to grip the risks immediately, which in turn is paving the way for the UK to become one of the first countries in the world to reap the benefits of AI safely.”
Nearly £90 million will go towards launching the nine new research hubs across the UK, with locations yet to be disclosed, and also a partnership with the US on responsible AI.
In addition, £2 million of Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding will support new research projects that will help to define what responsible AI across sectors such as education, policing and the creative industries.
And £19 million will go towards 21 projects to develop AI and machine learning solutions to accelerate deployment of these technologies and drive productivity. This will be funded through the Accelerating Trustworthy AI Phase 2 competition, supported through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund, and delivered by the Innovate UK BridgeAI programme.
The government will also be launching a steering committee in spring to support and guide the activities of a formal regulator coordination structure within government.
These measures sit alongside the £100 million invested by the government in the world’s first AI Safety Institute to evaluate the risks of new AI models, following the UK’s hosting of the world’s first major summit on AI safety at Bletchley Park in November.