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by Sofia Villegas
07 February 2024
Scottish universities to play a role in groundbreaking AI research

The financial boost will help the UK remain a frontrunner in AI research, it is claimed | Alamy

Scottish universities to play a role in groundbreaking AI research

Two Scottish universities have been selected to unlock the potential of cutting-edge AI research.

The University of Edinburgh will host two of nine new UK hubs for next-generation innovation.

It will also join a cohort of research teams, including one from the University of Glasgow, in developing responsible AI across education, policing and the creative industries.

Overall, both institutions will receive a share of a £100m fund from the UK Government - a move to safeguard its leadership position in AI research.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has invested £80m in the new hubs.

With its share of the multi-million-pound fund, the University of Edinburgh will lead on two projects. 

One will focus on using AI to simplify healthcare data to personalise treatments, while the second one will develop AI tools to make cheaper and more power-efficient electronics. 

Other hubs will focus on harnessing the technology in areas ranging from chemistry to mathematics. 

For example, the University of Newcastle will focus on how to make edge AI more cyber-resilient.

Edge AI is a system which combines edge computing with artificial intelligence. In other words, the study of how to apply AI near the source of the data rather than sending it to the cloud or a central server.

The University of Liverpool and the Imperial College London will be the only ones to co-lead a hub, which will investigate foundational AI methods and robotics for chemical discovery.

The University of Oxford, the University of Bristol, the University of Lancaster, and the University College of London will lead the remaining hubs.

The University of Glasgow will receive a share of a £2m fund from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) , also part of UKRI, for its study on responsible AI. 

Funded through the Bridging Responsible AI Divides (BRAID) programme, researchers will develop a model for integrating ethical AI systems into libraries seeking to hold knowledge from indigenous communities.

The Glasgow institution will join a cohort of ten projects, including the University of Edinburgh's study on integrating generative AI into secondary education.

Other projects will centre around areas ranging from automated vehicles and surveillance to the use of AI to enhance museum visitor experience and policing.

Aside from investing in the ten six-month scoping studies, the AHRC has also given a £7.6m economic injection to the second phase of the BRAID programme, extending activities to 2027/28. 

The second leg of the programme will bring a new group of projects and will work with stakeholders to develop new professional AI skills provisions.

This drive towards responsible AI will also receive parallel funding (£19m) from the UKRI technology missions fund. This investment will support 21 projects across the UK in bringing together over 100 organisations to develop responsible machine-learning solutions to accelerate the deployment of these technologies.

Projects will range from increasing the confidence in Large Language Models to using AI to make transport operations more efficient. 

On the international stage, the EPRSC will provide a further £9m in a bilateral partnership programme between the UK and US in order to enhance inputs to international governance of AI and help shape research inputs to domestic policymakers.

This funding rollout comes at the back of other initiatives including the recent announcement of 12 UKRI AI Centres for Doctoral Training which will nurture tech talent to tackle the skills gap in the sector.

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