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25 July, 2018 - 13:30 By Tony Quested

Cambridge takes global AI lead as Google DeepMind backs Machine Learning chair

Cambridge University is launching a DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning, thanks to a benefaction from the world-leading British AI company – Google’s DeepMind – whose IP was born within the globally acclaimed seat of learning.

The new chair, to be based at Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, will build on the university’s strengths in computer science and engineering and will be a focal point for the wide range of AI-related research taking place across the university.

Cambridge researchers are designing systems that are cybersecure, model human reasoning, interact in affective ways with us, uniquely identify us by our face and give insights into our biological makeup.

The first DeepMind chair is expected to take up their position in October 2019, following an international search by the department. The chair will have full academic freedom to pursue research in the field of machine learning.

Cambridge has a long tradition of excellence in computer science and is home to the largest technology cluster in Europe. The DeepMind Chair will build on this tradition by enhancing Cambridge’s capacity in AI-related research, and will contribute to the UK’s standing as a global hub in this rapidly-growing area.

The gift is part of a wider DeepMind programme to encourage uptake of machine learning, to support the wider academic ecosystem. As part of these efforts, DeepMind will give a donation to support four Master’s students from underrepresented groups wishing to study machine learning and computer science at Cambridge.

More information will be made available this autumn about scholarships beginning in the 2019 academic year. Demis Hassabis, DeepMind’s co-founder and CEO, completed his undergraduate degree in computer science at Queens’ College, Cambridge and received his PhD from UCL, while numerous other employees continue to give back to Cambridge through teaching and mentorship.

Hassabis said: “I have many happy memories from my time as an undergraduate at Cambridge, so it’s now a real honour for DeepMind to be able to contribute back to the Department of Computer Science and Technology and support others through their studies.

“My hope is that the DeepMind Chair in Machine Learning will help extend Cambridge’s already world-leading teaching and research capacities, and support further scientific breakthroughs towards the development of safe and ethical AI.”

University vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope added: “This gift will not only enhance Cambridge’s strengths in the field of AI research but also will benefit the UK more broadly as AI has such transformative potential in so many aspects of our lives.

“Our researchers are not only developing these new technologies but also are working to ensure that they benefit humanity. This new professorship is an important piece of that puzzle.”

Google paid over $600 million for DeepMind in 2014. Since that time Cambridge has spawned a UK leading number of AI, Machine Learning and broader DeepTech startups – the best of whom are ramping headcount at a rate of knots and starting to raise big money from global investors.

Cambridge leaders in the field include PROWLER.io, Fetch.AI and SWIM.AI, which has just received $10m from Cambridge Innovation Capital and Arm, the Cambridge-based world leading architect of superchips.

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