Imperial College London

Imperial and Liverpool to lead UK’s flagship £12m AI for Chemistry Hub

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Woman in a lab coat touching a virtual chemical symbol diagram

Credit: Charles Romain

Imperial and the University of Liverpool will lead a £12 million research Hub to develop state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) for chemistry.

The £12m funding from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is supplemented by £19m from consortium partners.

This new cross-disciplinary research hub aims to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the AI chemistry revolution. Professor Kim Jelfs

The AI for Chemistry Hub, AlChemy, will bring together leading academic researchers, industry, and other stakeholders to promote a collaborative community, offer training, and create new approaches at the rapidly evolving AI-chemistry interface.

The Hub will transform chemistry engagement with AI from a relatively niche activity to a core platform methodology, positioning the UK as the global leader in digital chemistry

AI-enabled technologies such as machine learning, automation, and robotics have the potential to support faster chemistry discoveries that address key societal needs, but this requires the coordinated engagement of leaders in both AI and chemistry to stay at the forefront of innovation in this field.

AIChemy will ensure that the chemical sciences community is able to exploit the AI revolution so that researchers can provide solutions to global challenges such as net zero emissions and global health.

The AI chemistry revolution

Professor Kim Jelfs, from the Department of Chemistry and the Institute for Digital Molecular Design and Fabrication (DigiFAB) at Imperial, and Professor Andy Cooper, from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Chemistry and Materials Innovation Factory (MIF), are co-leading this unique consortium.

Professor Kim Jelfs
Professor Kim Jelfs

Professor Jelfs said: “AI has the potential to transform chemistry and this new cross-disciplinary research hub aims to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the AI chemistry revolution.”

Professor Cooper said: “This is the UK’s first academic-industrial institute of its kind dedicated to supporting collaboration between chemistry and AI researchers.

“There is huge scope for chemistry researchers to work more effectively with AI researchers, and this new hub will bring together two separate disciplines to build a new cohesive UK research community.”

The UK-wide consortium brings together internationally recognised researchers in AI and those at the interface of AI for chemistry from nine academic institutions (Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, Queen’s University Belfast, UCL and the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford, Southampton and Strathclyde) alongside more than 15 industry partners.

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AIChemy will draw on world-leading specialist facilities and research institutes where cross-discipline working already exists. These include DigiFAB and I-X at Imperial College London and the MIF at Liverpool.

Revolutionary AI innovations

AIChemy: AI in Chemistry Hub is one of nine hubs funded through an investment of £80 million announced today by UKRI.

Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of EPSRC, said: “The hubs will deliver revolutionary AI innovations and tools in a range of sectors from healthcare to energy, smart cities and environment. Only by solving key challenges and improving our understanding of AI will we achieve the increased productivity and economic growth promised by this technology.”

Professor Mary Ryan, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) at Imperial, said: "We are at the start of a revolution in all technology areas, driven and enabled by advances in AI.

"To take advantage of this for the UK chemistry sector requires deep collaboration between fields, and the development and deployment of new tools for discovery and translation. I'm excited to see the impact this hub will undoubtedly generate over the coming years."

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."

About the institutes

The Institute for Digital Molecular Design and Fabrication (DigiFAB) at Imperial is leading a new era of digital molecular design and fabrication for a smart, healthy and sustainable society. The Institute’s vision is to transform chemical design and manufacturing by moving away from slow, labour-intensive manual methods, towards highly automated, data-driven approaches that capitalise upon advances driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Based at Imperial College London's White City Campus, I-X is a co-located space that utilises the university’s long-standing excellence in AI. Through a suite of educational programmes and the start of its recent Business Partners membership scheme, I-X has created an entrepreneurial environment to tackle major societal challenges.

Its research focuses on both foundational AI and AI applications, with the goal of delivering real benefits to humanity and scientific exploration within the next five to ten years. The impact of these research initiatives extends to solving pressing problems in health, sustainability, economics, and defence.

Professor Sophia Yaliraki, Co-Director of I-X, said: “Located within the White City Innovation District, I-X will be a springboard for the AIChemy activities, working collaboratively alongside our AI experts across foundational and application areas.”

The Materials Innovation Factory at the University of Liverpool is an £81 million state-of-the-art facility dedicated to advanced materials research. It brings together world-leading materials chemistry expertise with the latest computational and robotic equipment to accelerate research and reduce the time it takes to develop new products to address a range of societal challenges.

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Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2412
Email: h.dunning@imperial.ac.uk

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