UK scientists to supercharge Artificial Intelligence in revolutionary £80 million national initiative

Published: 6 February 2024

The University of Glasgow is helping to put the UK at the forefront of AI advances, using it to transform current uses and tackle important global challenges.

The University of Glasgow is helping to put the UK at the forefront of AI advances, using it to transform current uses and tackle important global challenges.

Leading mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists across the UK have joined a new national mission to realise this potential, taking AI applications to uncharted heights in various settings, spanning healthcare, pandemics, cities, finance, and the environment.

Nine AI hubs across the UK have been funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). While a further 10 scoping studies, have been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), also part of UKRI, that will help to define responsible AI across education, policing and the creative industries.

The University of Bristol is setting up two national AI research hubs to develop key research, expertise, and innovations which will make AI an even more versatile, trustworthy tool. This is possible due to £21 million funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Alison Heppenstall is representing the University of Glasgow for the AI4CI Hub, a collaboration involving the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Ulster and University College London (UCL). She will lead the Smart Cities hub, based in the UofG’s department of Urban Studies.

The AI for Collective Intelligence (AI4CI) hub will generate new AI to leverage intelligence that is distributed across populations of people and devices in order to improve both individual and collective decision making. This already occurs naturally when people share, compare, and filter information, but new AI offers the possibility to harness this kind of collective intelligence at scale, delivering support and guidance tailored for individuals and national agencies alike.

For example, identifying trends within the experiences of diabetes patients could be used to provide bespoke anticipatory guidance direct to patients via smart agents. There is also potential for innovations to be deployed to improve NHS policies for supporting patients with appropriate treatments and technologies. This would enable patients to manage their own condition more effectively, helping them avoid acute episodes that require hospitalisation.

AI also has capacity to assist during major threats to public health. For instance, the Hub’s Pandemic Resilience theme will reconsider the modelling and analyses undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic, exploring how new AI approaches could improve centralised policy making and empower individual decisions during a future pandemic.

Professor Alison Heppenstall said: “Working in collaboration with CASA @UCL, the Smart Cities hub will allow new insights and an understanding of the future challenges facing cities to be developed through the use of simulation and AI approaches.”

The 10 six-month scoping projects, supported with £2 million AHRC funding through the Bridging Responsible AI Divides (BRAID) programme, will define what responsible AI is across sectors such as education, policing and the creative industries.

The University of Glasgow led project is called “iREAL: Inclusive Requirements Elicitation for AI in Libraries to Support Respectful Management of Indigenous Knowledges”. iREAL will develop a model for responsible AI systems development in libraries seeking to include knowledge from Indigenous communities, specifically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.

The AI libraries project includes academics from Glasgow, King’s College London and the University of Technology Sydney in partnership with Digital Preservation Coalition.

Professor Paul Gooding, Information Studies, University of Glasgow and Principal investigator on iREAL said: “The impact of AI is already being felt across libraries, but we still lack an understanding of how AI systems impact on the communities who were responsible for creating the materials upon which those systems rely. This project therefore aims to include Indigenous communities in the creation and critique of AI systems development in libraries. Research of this nature is vital in helping libraries to deploy Artificial Intelligence to their collections and practices in a way that is compatible with the principles of Responsible AI and Indigenous data governance.

“I’m delighted to be working with this highly interdisciplinary team to work on an issue of great importance to both libraries and Indigenous communities.”

Today’s announcement comes on the same day that the government has published its AI regulation white paper consultation response, which carves out the UK’s own approach to regulation.

Minister for AI Viscount Camrose, said: "The investment we’re pouring into these new projects is only possible as a result of our pro-innovation approach to AI. The AI Regulation White Paper consultation response we’ve set out today will see us forging ahead with that plan, driving forward the next wave of brilliant AI innovations.

"These hubs will nurture new, cutting-edge breakthroughs, from healthcare treatments and more power efficient electronics to machine learning and chemical discovery.

"New projects being delivered by BRAID will also help to define responsible AI in key sectors such as education, policing, and the creative industries, ensuring public trust in the technology as we continue to harness its transformative capabilities."

First published: 6 February 2024