The University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde are both receiving substantial investment through the new Turing Artificial Intelligence fellowship.

What’s the Turing Artificial Intelligence (AI) Fellowship?

As explained in a government press release, the new Turing AI Fellowship is “…part of the UK government’s ambition to establish the UK as a world leader in AI and support researchers to scale up their innovations.”

15 different UK projects will get a share of £20million to help them with their innovative projects.

How is the University of Strathclyde using the money?

Dr Antonio Hurtado works at the University of Strathclyde and his data processing AI project just got £1.16million. This innovation aims to use laser light to process large quantities of complex data as quickly as possible, using as little energy as possible.

Dr Hurtado said: “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.”

What’s the University of Glasgow’s AI R&D project?

At the University of Glasgow, Dr Jeff Dalton gets £1.59 million investment in his research into using voice-based technology. His projects aims to make our interactions with technology more conversational and assist more difficult tasks than just ‘Alexa, turn the lights on’. The idea is that this will be used to maximise efficiency for businesses and individuals during multiple-step processes and research.

Dr Dalton said: “Being awarded the Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship is an incredible honour. 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.

Our goal is to democratize the emerging ‘voice web’ by enabling non-experts to rapidly develop assistants using open-source technology. Our research will support the creation of a new generation of open assistants applicable to diverse sectors. The fellowship will accelerate our research using large-scale machine learning models to create the next generation of assistants capable of deeper language understanding and more transparent reasoning.”

Why are the government funding AI projects?

The establishment of these Turing AI Fellowships are part of the government’s overall ‘R&D Roadmap’. This commits the government to backing British innovation and the ‘scaling up’ of projects country wide. In particular, they want to see AI research and development become part of our “real world” more quickly. And secure the UK’s reputation as being a dominant force in the world of AI innovation, globally.

Iain Stewart, UK Government Minister for Scotland, said: “Backed by UK Government funding, these trailblazing scientists are pushing the boundaries of AI. The UK Government is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in Scottish universities and there is much more in the pipeline. This week, the Chancellor committed £14.6bn in funding for R&D in the Spending Review, which means investment in Scotland’s world-leading universities will continue to grow. This funding is very well deserved.”

Amanda Solloway, Science Minister, said: “The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we therefore have a duty to equip the next generation of Alan Turings, like Professor Antonio Hurtado and Dr Jeff Dalton in Scotland, with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.

Scotland has a rich history of innovating and the inspiring projects we are backing today – from AI that can process data at lightning speed to virtual assistants performing complicated information tasks- will help to transform the way we live and work, while cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.”

We are excited to see the AI developments that come out of these Scottish university projects. And look forward to bringing you news about the other 13 AI R&D projects across the UK.

Jamie Smith