UK launches £1bn AI fund at Imperial College London


Robot zeno

The UK government launched a £1bn artificial intelligence fund with industry at Imperial College London today.

The deal, announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Digital Secretary Matt Hancock, will fund 1,000 new government AI PhDs to keep the UK at the forefront of innovation and build the UK’s status as an AI research hotspot.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock said Imperial was the ideal place to launch the AI sector deal

More than 50 leading technology companies and organisations have contributed to the development of an AI Sector Deal – which includes more than £300 million of newly allocated government funding for AI research to make the UK a global leader in this technology.

Leading centre in AI

Robot Zeno and US Ambasador
US Ambassador Woody Johnson met robot Zeno earlier this year

Imperial is a world-leading centre in AI and machine learning with more than 600 people working with and developing artificial intelligence.

These include Professor Maja Pantic, who is developing a robot which can improve learning and emotional understanding in children with autism, and Professor Aldo Faisal, who is developing software which can understand a person’s intentions and direct a wheelchair by detecting their eye movement.

There's no better place to launch this strategy than at Imperial. Matt Hancock MP Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Speaking at the launch, Imperial’s President Alice Gast, said: "Imperial has a history of excellence in AI going back over 30 years, and today we have over 600 people across the College responding to global challenges in AI research.

"Everywhere I go, every business leader I talk to knows that AI is important and they need it for their future.

"Our AI network is responding to that call by bringing together experts from engineering, medicine, natural sciences and business to develop AI methods and systems across a range of applications.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark with President Gast

"For example, our researchers are using AI to develop self-navigating wheelchairs for paralysed people, they are using machine learning to improve the detection of breast cancer, they are using AI to optimise relief efforts in disaster and emergency response; and, they are harnessing AI to assess a person’s 'brain age' in the hope of spotting cognitive conditions earlier.

"We are also training the next generation of AI experts through our specialist Masters courses in AI and Machine Learning."

Imperial spin-out

President Gast
President Gast speaking at the AI launch

This comes as UK start-up backer Founders Factory welcomes four new AI firms to its London accelerator centre, including UQuant – an Imperial spin-out using AI to help engineers analyse data to improve how they do test simulations and avoid manufacturing errors even at early production stages. Pilot clients included NASA, Rolls Royce and McLaren.

Limitless opportunities

Business Secretary Greg Clark
Business Secretary Greg Clark meets Robot De Niro

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark told industry leaders and academics: "Every time I come to Imperial I am reminded by how much is going on here.

"Britain has long heritage in artificial intelligence and our universities are leading the world.

"Imperial's Vice Provost Professor Nick Jennings is a global authority in artificial intelligence and Imperial's researchers are leading the world in this area.


The Business Secretary continued: "Artificial intelligence provides limitless opportunities to develop new, efficient and accessible products and services which transform the way we live and work.

"Today’s new deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce to establish the UK as a driving force in the development and commercial use of artificial intelligence technologies.

"As with all innovation there is also the potential for misuse which puts the whole sector under scrutiny and undermines public confidence.

"That is why we are establishing a new world-leading body, to ensure the ethical use of data in AI applications for the benefit of all."

Pushing boundaries

Matt Hancock
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock said: "There is no better place to launch this strategy than at Imperial. The UK is leading the world in this technology.

"I believe we are in the early stages of a revolution that will change all our lives.

"The UK must be at the forefront of emerging technologies, pushing boundaries and harnessing innovation to change people's lives for the better.

Greg Clark with David Gann
Business Secretary Greg Clark with Vice President (Innovation) David Gann

"Artificial Intelligence is at the centre of our plans to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.

"We have a great track record and are home to some of the world's biggest names in AI like Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon, but there is so much more we can do.

"By boosting AI skills and data driven technologies we will make sure that we continue to build a Britain that is shaping the future."

Study a Masters in Artificial Intelligence


Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications Division

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