UK Government backs Microsoft and University of Cambridge AI project

UK Government backs Microsoft and University of Cambridge AI project
Multimillion-pound initiative aims to help researchers improve ways to build the technology

Elly Yates-Roberts |

The UK Government is backing a multimillion-pound project from Microsoft and the University of Cambridge to make artificial intelligence (AI) smarter, easier to create and useful to more people.

The five-year research programme – called Machine Learning for Tomorrow: Efficient, Flexible, Robust and Automated – will work to find better ways of compiling and using the data that forms the basis of AI. It will also explore how to simplify the development of AI models and reduce errors and bias in real-world applications.

“AI is making huge progress in real-world applications, from speech translation to medical imaging,” said Richard Turner, team lead from the University of Cambridge. “While we know that AI has the potential to transform sectors from healthcare to gaming, as well as improve overall business productivity, we must not forget that we are still in the early stages of its development.

“Building on the deep collaborative academic-industry partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, we aim to realise the potential of AI to enhance the human experience and nurture the next generation of AI researchers and talent. Investment in basic research and innovation is vital in helping design trustworthy and responsive AI.”

Creating AI typically requires a lot of error-free and organised data, which is usually done manually by the few researchers worldwide who have the right skills to build the technology. As such, systems can’t be made by many people or organisations yet. Microsoft and the University of Cambridge hope to solve some of these issues with their research, so AI can be developed more widely in the UK and help people across the world.

“Without a doubt, AI can provide a great opportunity for British society and the economy,” said Timothy Clement-Jones, chairman of the House of Lords select committee on AI. “Today, the UK enjoys a position of AI innovation, so as we enter a crucial stage in its development and adoption, the country has a clear opportunity to be a world leader. For this, an ethics-backed partnership between business academia and government will be pivotal.”

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