First wave of Turing AI Fellows announced to “keep UK at forefront of AI revolution”

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez October 25, 2019
The Turing AI Fellowships form part of the investment put forward by the government’s £1bn AI sector deal.

A photo of Alan Turing

The Alan Turing Institute has this week announced the first five Turing AI Fellows, each of which will carry out different research into various roles and applications of artificial intelligence. This first wave of fellows - as well as a second wave that has this week been announced by the Institute this week - forms part of the government’s £1 billion AI sector deal.

Working with the Office for Artificial Intelligence and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the fellowships have received £37.5 million of funding for five years. 

The Alan Turing Institute said that the AI Fellows are drawn from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and will be tackling research challenges from sustainable aviation to AI for discovery in data intensive astrophysics. 

On welcoming the Fellows to the Institute, Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: 

AI has the potential to boost productivity and enhance every industry across the economy, from developing new treatments for life-threatening diseases to tackling climate change. Today’s announcement is helping us solve the UK’s Grand Challenges by ensuring the UK is at the forefront of the latest technologies and opening-up British businesses to new opportunities.

The UK is a petri-dish for incredible talent and we’re passionate about nurturing the next generation of world-class scientists, so the UK remains at the forefront of research and innovation.

That is why we’re investing in the AI and bioscience PhD research. These critical areas will transform the UK economy and create the highly-skilled workforce we need for the future.”

The appointed Fellows include:

  • Neil Lawrence, University of Cambridge, Senior Turing AI Fellow - Lawrence will be focusing on machine learning systems design. He will work on the entire pipeline of AI system development, from data acquisition to decision making. He proposes an ecosystem that includes system monitoring for performance, interpretability and fairness. And he places these ideas in a wider context that also considers the availability, quality and ethics of data.

  • Tim Dodwell, University of Exeter, Turing AI Fellow - Dodwell’s work addresses the challenge of building a more sustainable aviation industry by spanning traditional academic disciplines. The aim of his fellowship is to develop novel AI methods which fuse high-performance mathematical simulations and traditional experimental data to build a virtual test pyramid. This will increase the confidence in making the ultimate engineering decision: “Is this plane safe to fly?”.

  • Yarin Gal, University of Oxford, Turing AI Fellow - Gal will work on democratising safe and robust AI. While already in use in industry and academia, major obstacles still stand in the way of deploying deep learning AI safely and responsibly. Yarin proposes to tackle these problems by building community challenges derived from real-world applications of AI in industry. With the community competing on these public challenges, new safe and robust AI tools will be developed for responsible use in industry.

  • Maria Liakata, University of Warwick, Turing AI Fellow - Liakata’s work as a Turing AI Fellow utilises language data obtained from wide-spread use of digital technology such as social media as well as mobile phone data to develop novel natural language processing methods for automatically capturing changes in user behaviour over time. This work has direct applicability to mental health as it will help provide experts with evidence for personalised changes in mood and cognition from everyday use of digital technologies.

  • Anna Scaife, University of Manchester, Turing AI Fellow - Scaife’s Turing AI Fellowship focuses on AI for discovery in data intensive astrophysics. In this era of big data astrophysics, radio telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) have data rates so large that the raw data cannot be stored, and even using the compressed data products requires a super-computer. Anna will develop new machine learning approaches to deal efficiently with these huge data volumes, and address the question of how we can still allow for discovery when such processing is completely automated.

Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute, said,

We look forward to what this talented group of Turing AI Fellows will bring to our vibrant research community and we welcome their contributions to our growing Institute. There is vast potential for their diverse work to be transformative in both the foundations and applications of AI and I am confident they will push the boundaries of what these new technologies can do for the good of society.

The AI sector deal 

Last year the government announced its £1 billion AI sector deal, which included £300 million of private sector investment. The announcement followed the launch of the government’s Industrial Strategy, within which AI Was highlighted as one of the UK’s four ‘grand challenges’. 

There are many aspects to the deal. However, there is a heavy focus on skills, where it includes money for training for 8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025, as well as the commitment to developing a global Turing Fellowship programme to attract and retain the best research talent in AI to the UK.

The government claims that this will make sure every secondary school has a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher to give the next “generation the skills they need to develop and capitalise on future technology”.

As part of the deal, the accountancy firm Sage has also committed to delivering an AI pilot programme for 150 young people across the UK.

The Government also wants to build on its reputation as an international hub for AI innovation and is going to provide £20 million of funding to help the UK’s service industries, including law and insurance, with new pilot projects to identify how AI can transform and enhance their operations.

£21 million will also be used to support uptake of AI through businesses by transforming Tech City UK, currently London based, into Tech Nation, creating a network of high growth regional tech hubs across the country.