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Five internationally-recognised researchers have been appointed as the first Turing Artificial Intelligence (AI) World-Leading Researcher Fellows.

Image shows a brain made up from data lines

The new fellows, who will conduct ground-breaking work on AI’s biggest challenges, are:

  • Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Samuel Kaski, The University of Manchester
  • Professor Mirella Lapata, The University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Philip Torr, University of Oxford
  • Professor Michael Wooldridge, University of Oxford.

The fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing, are part of the UK’s commitment to further strengthen its position as a global leader in the field.

Retaining and attracting some of the best international research talent in a highly competitive international environment will increase the UK’s competitive advantage and capability in AI.

Transformative impact

The fellows’ research will have a transformative effect on the international AI research and innovation landscape by tackling some of the fundamental challenges in the field.

It could also deliver major societal impact in areas including:

  • decision-making in personalised medicine
  • synthetic biology and drug design
  • financial modelling
  • autonomous vehicles.

About the fellows

Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, University of Cambridge

Professor Ghahramani is:

  • Senior Director and distinguished researcher at Google
  • Former Chief Scientist at Uber
  • a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He will hold his fellowship jointly while continuing to work at Google.

He aims to develop the new algorithms and applications needed to address limitations faced by the AI systems that underpin technologies such as voice and face recognition and autonomous vehicles.

This includes ensuring they can better adapt to new data, and apply data-driven machine learning approaches to simulators to understand complex systems.

Professor Samuel Kaski, The University of Manchester

Professor Kaski holds a joint position as:

  • Research Director of the Christabel Pankhurst Institute for Health Technology Research
  • Director of the Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence at Aalto University.

Through his fellowship, Professor Kaski aims to overcome a fundamental limitation of current AI systems, that they require a detailed specification of the goal before they can help.

In difficult design and decision tasks such as drug design we often cannot give that, because the desired outcomes uncertain and evolving.

The new tools will be applied to help in drug design and to improve diagnoses and treatment decision making in personalized medicine.

Professor Mirella Lapata, The University of Edinburgh

Professor Lapata:

  • is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • is Director of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Centre for Doctoral Training in Natural Language Processing
  • holds the Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award
  • was the first recipient of the Karen Spärck Jones Award.

Professor Lapata aims to develop an AI system, inspired by the human brain, that is capable of advanced reasoning and able to draw conclusions from large and varied sets of data.

This would address the limitations of current AI systems which cannot match the sophistication of the human brain in integrating large amounts of information from different sources.

Professor Philip Torr, University of Oxford

Professor Torr is:

  • a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Founder of spin-out Oxsight and AIstetic.

He aims to make deep neural networks more robust.

Deep networks are widely used in applications from fraud-detection to self-driving cars but are have surprising vulnerabilities.

Through his fellowship Professor Torr will create a new centre of excellence. The centre will make deep learning reliable, robust and deployable as well as capable of efficiently handling the enormous quantities of data they will be fed with.

Professor Michael Wooldridge, University of Oxford

Professor Wooldridge is:

  • Head of Computer Science at Oxford
  • Co-programme Director for AI at The Alan Turing Institute
  • a recipient of the British Computer Society’s Lovelace Medal
  • a Fellow of four AI and computing societies and associations.

Professor Wooldridge will be working with industrial partners:

  • Accenture Global Solutions
  • Facebook
  • JP Morgan
  • Oxford Asset Management
  • Schlumberger
  • Vodafone.

He aims to improve the agent-based AI models that are increasingly used in sectors such as financial modelling and logistics.

Professor Wooldridge’s team have previously used agent-based models to understand the causes of catastrophic collapses in global markets, so called “flash crashes”, and they will continue this work in the project.

Globally competitive advantage

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

As home to Alan Turing, the father of artificial intelligence, the UK boasts a globally competitive advantage in AI, and the Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships will ensure that we continue to attract and retain the world’s most talented AI innovators.

Backed to the tune of £18 million, these five outstanding researchers will use AI to tackle the great societal challenges of our time that could improve how we live and work, from personalised medicine to autonomous vehicles, all while cementing the UK’s status as a global science superpower.

Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said:

These five internationally-recognised researchers appointed as the first Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellows will help enable us to attract top talent from across the globe and ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of AI research and innovation.

This expertise will increase the UK’s capabilities in AI and equip us to face greater and more complex challenges.

The fellows are supported with an £18 million investment by UKRI.

Industry collaboration

In addition to this, 39 different collaborators including IBM, AstraZeneca and Facebook are making contributions worth £15.7 million to the fellows’ research programmes.

The fellowships are being delivered by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said:

The Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships recognise internationally-leading researchers in AI, and provide the support needed to tackle some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in AI research.

These fellowships enable the UK to attract top international talent to the UK as well as retaining our own world-leaders. Attracting and retaining top talent is essential to keep the UK at the leading edge of AI research and innovation.

Innovation strategy

It follows the publication of the government’s innovation strategy last week.

The strategy identified seven strategic technologies for the UK to prioritise and build on existing R&D strengths, including AI, where the UK has globally competitive advantage.

AI is a significant global opportunity to increase economic wealth and transform society, with many other countries investing heavily in research.

Global opportunity

Today’s announcement is part of a £46 million investment in AI research leaders through Turing AI fellowships.

The fellowships, alongside wider investment, are designed to build on the UK’s leading role in AI and boost its reputation as a great place to study, invest or work in AI.

The investment includes:

Fellowship investment

The Turing AI fellowships investment is be delivered in partnership by:

  • UKRI
  • Office for AI
  • The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and AI.

Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Director of The Alan Turing Institute, said:

Inspired by the legacy of Alan Turing, the UK already attracts many of the most internationally-renowned talents in AI, and these fellowships will further enable some of our brightest minds, across a range of disciplines to ensure AI research continues to have a positive and transformative effect.

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