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Turing Fellowships Look to Keep U.K. at Forefront of AI

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researchers at The Alan Turing Institute

Researchers at The Alan Turing Institute.

The first five recipients of Turing AI Fellowships, funded through the AI Sector Deal, have been announced by The Alan Turing Institute, the U.K.'s national institute for AI and data science. The fellows' research will have direct relevance to areas ranging from mental health and the aerospace industry to astrophysics.

The fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing, are part of a comprehensive AI talent initiative that also includes 16 U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI) AI Centers for Doctoral Training, established with a £200 million (US$257.7 million) investment from UKRI, industry, and university at 14 universities with 300 partners across industry. The first 200 students have started at the centers this autumn.

The first five Turing AI Fellows announced by The Alan Turing Institute are:

  • Neil Lawrence, University of Cambridge, Senior Turing AI Fellow. Professor Lawrence is world-renowned for his work and as the first Senior Turing AI Fellow. He will focus on machine learning systems design ensuring that monitoring for performance, interpretability, and fairness are key tenets of the ecosystem. Lawrence has also recently been named DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge and is a member of the U.K.'s AI Council.
  • Maria Liakata, University of Warwick, Turing AI Fellow. Liakata's work will focus on novel natural language processing methods to capture changes in user behavior over time. This work has direct applicability to mental health as it will help provide experts with evidence for personalized changes in mood and cognition from everyday use of digital technologies.
  • Yarin Gal, University of Oxford, Turing AI Fellow. Professor Gal will work on democratizing safe and robust AI, by building community challenges derived from real-world applications of AI in industry to help develop new safe and robust AI tools for responsible use in industry.
  • Anna Scaife, The University of Manchester, Turing AI Fellow. Professor Scaife focuses on AI for discovery in astrophysics and will ensure for example that the rarest and most extreme astrophysical objects are not discarded or missed in our processing of images captured from outer space.
  • Tim Dodwell, University of Exeter, Turing AI Fellow. Dodwell's work addresses the challenge of building a more sustainable aviation industry, the benefits of which will not only allow the aerospace industry to build faster, lighter, more sustainable aircraft for the future, but also provide new applications across the high-value manufacturing sector and broader scientific communities.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, making the announcement, said: "The U.K. has educated, trained, and developed some of the best scientists in the world — and we must continue to lead the world in AI and technology with our incredible talent and innovative breakthroughs.

"That's why we're investing millions of pounds to create hundreds of new AI and bioscience Ph.D.s, so new research and development can thrive here in the U.K. and solve the biggest challenges that face us — from climate change to better healthcare."

U.K. Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: "Talented people with ideas, energy, and tenacity hold the key to unlocking the potential of Artificial Intelligence.  The Turing AI Fellowships support this talent, build on the U.K.'s reputation for creativity and innovation and ensure we remain at the forefront of this transformative technology.

"By attracting world-leading talent and developing the next generation of AI researchers and innovators, we will catalyze vital collaboration between academia, industry, and government, delivering benefits that will be felt across society and the economy," Walport said.

U.K. and international researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds are encouraged to apply to the next round of Turing AI Fellowships, which involves £36 million (US$46.4 million) of funding for the fellowships and other efforts.

The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship will open shortly. Details of the Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships have also been released and the call will open in early November. Both calls have £18 million (US$23.1 million) to support a number of fellows for five years.

The Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships will invest in the international recruitment and retention of three to five world-leading AI researchers, with significant packages of support.

Fellows will be expected to establish world-leading centers of excellence in strategically important areas of AI, build strong collaborations across academia, industry, and other sectors both in the U.K. and internationally, and develop the next generation of AI researchers and innovators of the future.

The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will support the acceleration of the careers of 10-15 high potential mid-career researchers towards a world-leading position. Strong emphases within this program will be on creativity of ideas, thought, and approach, and on enabling new models of collaboration between academia and other sectors.


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