UKRI invests in artificial intelligence, innovation and research

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced that it will be investing £54 million to develop artificial intelligence technologies in the UK, along with investing £7 million to “establish the Innovation and Research Caucus (IRC) as a world leading centre of excellence in research and innovation funding”.

AI investments

The investments for artificial intelligence include £8m for two Turing World Leading Researcher Fellowships. One of these fellowships goes to Professor Alison Noble from the University of Oxford, whose research focuses on AI for shared human-machine decision-making in healthcare imaging, including studying the ethics of AI and its trustworthiness. “The research will also develop human skills models of clinical tasks by applying ML-based analysis to video and other sensor data,” UKRI states. “This work will encourage greater interaction between UK academia and industry in healthcare imaging and allied areas as well as explore implications on how AI adoption is changing expectations on human skills.”

The investment also includes £31m for Response AI UK consortium to create a UK and international research and innovation ecosystem for “responsible and trustworthy AI”; £2m for 42 projects to carry out feasibility studies in businesses, exploring the development of a range of tools to facilitate assessment of AI technologies with regards to areas such as governance, safety and, transparency; and £13m is to fund 13 projects designed to help the UK in meeting net zero targets.

Kedar Pandya, executive director for the cross-council programmes at EPSRC, said that development in AI will “shape the fabric of many areas of our lives” and added: “For this to be successful we must invest in research and systems in which can have trust and confidence, and ensure these considerations are integrated in all aspects of the work as it progresses.”

Establishing the IRC

The establishment of the IRC is to “increase the use of robust evidence and insights in UKRI strategies and investments”, supporting UKRI in realising the goals for the UK Science and Technology Framework with the aim of delivering improved societal and economic benefits from research and innovation.

The IRC’s aims include building a community of research and innovation experts; working with UKRI to promote the use of evidence in developing research and innovation funding and strategies; establishing itself as a “world leading centre of excellence in evidence and thought leadership”; and supporting Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.

The centre will carry out research projects commissioned by UKRI, providing evidence for decision-making, and will build capability and communication between academics and policymakers. It will also help with the development of researchers at various stages of their career and identify areas for research within the R&I sector.

UKRI’s chief executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, commented that the IRC “will have a vital role to play in providing powerful insights into what works, where and why. I look forward to working with the Caucus to create and use those insights to optimise the support we provide to the UK’s outstanding research and innovation system.”

Funding for the IRC will come through the ESRC and Innovate UK, and it will be led by a team of Professor Tim Vorley at Oxford Brookes University, and Professor Stephen Roper at the University of Warwick.