The University of Southampton

Major investment in UK AI welcomed by Professor Dame Wendy Hall

Published: 21 June 2018
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Dame Wendy Hall is Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton

Professor Dame Wendy Hall has enthusiastically welcomed the UK government’s plans to develop the country’s next generation of artificial intelligence (AI) experts.

Dame Wendy co-chaired the UK government’s review and analysis of the country’s current AI capabilities in their eagerly-anticipated report Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK (published on 15 October 2017). The report set out a number of bold proposals for how the UK can stay ahead of the competition and ensure the adoption of cutting-edge AI brings with it substantial benefits for people and businesses across the country.

In response to the report, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has unveiled details of a world-first industry and government collaboration including the establishment of a new UK-based Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

The DCMS also announced to develop a National Data Strategy to unlock the power of data in the UK, with measures to increase the country’s leading role in the ethical use of data in the public sector.

In addition, DCMS is providing £350,000 funding to the Digital Catapult’s work to help Internet of Things (IoT) innovators and the emerging sector. The investment will link up IoT projects in the UK, helping people benefit from connected devices and technology safely. It will showcase the UK as an international leader in these fields.

Dame Wendy, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, says: “It is very exciting to see the recommendations of our review feeding directly into government policy. There is enormous potential for AI to be of great benefit to the UK economy and to enable companies to create new jobs as the technology matures. Providing the right skills-base to support a strong AI workforce in the UK is an essential part of the plan.”

Dame Wendy is particularly pleased with the introduction of a new AI industrial masters programme which responds directly to recommendations she made jointly with Jérôme Pesenti in their independent review into growing the UK’s AI industry published in October 2017. Dame Wendy and Pesenti called for top-tier programmes developed with industry to meet the needs of employers and conversion masters degrees for students not studying computing or data science.

The new masters programme will see the British Computer Society and Alan Turing Institute partner with universities and major corporations to boost the numbers of highly qualified experts and help give the UK’s tech industry the talent it needs to thrive in the future. Work to develop the programme will begin in July with an ambition for it to launch in 2019.

“The AI industrial masters programme was a significant recommendation in our review,” Dame Wendy adds. “Industries, large and small, told us that they need people with advanced level AI skills, and I look forward to working with the BCS and the ATI to make this scheme work.”

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