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17 October, 2023 - 10:15 By Tony Quested

Google funding for new Cambridge University AI hub could help UK grab £400bn opportunity

California tech giant Google is funding a long term collaboration with Cambridge University to facilitate responsible development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence.

Google, which last month celebrated its Silver Jubilee, has made a significant grant to a new Centre for Human-Inspired Artificial Intelligence at Cambridge to fund AI research that benefits everyone.

The partners want to help create more than £400 billion in economic value for the UK economy by 2030. That figure was identified as a reasonable target in a recent report commissioned by Google and compiled by Public First.

To ensure everyone can tap into the potential of the exciting new venture – regardless of whether they’re in higher education – Google has launched free training to offer people and businesses practical skills and knowledge to capture the benefits of AI. 

The multi-year partnership will include funding PhDs for candidates from under-represented groups as part of wider effort to help broaden diversity in the AI research field.

It creates the potential for researchers and scientists from Google and the University to more closely collaborate on foundational AI research projects in areas of shared interest across a range of disciplines including climate and sustainability and AI ethics & safety. 

Google becomes the first funding partner for the University’s dedicated new AI hub, which is being led by Professor Anna Korhonen, Professor Per Ola Kristensson and Dr John Suckling.

Google’s unrestricted grant is helping enable the Centre’s AI research in areas like responsible AI, human-centred robotics, human-machine interaction, healthcare, economic sustainability and climate change. 

The donation is also funding students from underrepresented groups to carry out PhDs within the CHIA to help broaden diversity in the AI research community. 

The expanded partnership builds on years of collaboration between Google Research, Google DeepMind and the University. Google provides funding for academic research, facilitates collaboration between faculty and Google researchers and supports exceptional computer science students through its PhD Fellowship Programme. 

Google DeepMind funds scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds studying AI-related fields, as well as a postdoctoral Fellowship, to help build a stronger and more inclusive AI community. 

It also endowed the first DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology to help drive its machine learning and artificial intelligence research.

Matt Brittin, President of Google EMEA and University of Cambridge alum, said: “AI has huge potential to benefit people across the world – whether it’s through making daily life that bit easier or by tackling some of society’s biggest challenges. 

“It’s vital that we work together to seize this opportunity. By collaborating with one of our world-leading British academic institutions we can enable AI research that is bold, responsible and designed to meet the needs of people across the country. This partnership also reaffirms Google’s commitment to the UK as a global AI and technology leader.”

Jessica Montgomery, Director of AI@Cam, the University of Cambridge’s flagship mission on artificial intelligence, added: “The University of Cambridge can be an engine for AI innovation and a steward of advancements in this exciting field. 

“Translating advances in AI to benefits for science, citizens, and society requires interdisciplinary research that is deeply connected to real-word needs. 

“The research collaboration agreement announced today will support research activities across the University. We want to leverage the world-leading expertise found across the University to enable exciting new advances in responsible AI.”

The venture has been welcomed and lauded by the Government’s Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. She said: “Artificial intelligence can offer us enormous opportunities – growing the economy, creating new jobs and making lives longer, healthier and happier for British people. 

“To seize those opportunities, we must bring together insights from business and academia to encourage the safe and responsible development of AI. That is why we are welcoming the partnership which Google and the University of Cambridge have announced today.”

Professor Anna Korhonen, Director of CHIA, said its researchers were dedicated to making sure that people were put at the very heart of new developments in AI.

“As our first funding partner, Google has been with us from the start of our journey, helping enable the breakthrough interdisciplinary research that we do. Partnerships like this – between academia and industry – will continue to be vital for the successful development of human-inspired AI.”

Zoubin Ghahramani, VP, Research, Google DeepMind is a Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge and has spearheaded this expanded partnership. 

He commented: “Google and the University of Cambridge share a deep commitment to developing AI responsibly which means grounding innovation in scientific research,  human values and our AI principles. 

“We’re excited by CHIA’s potential to set new standards in responsible and human-centric AI development  and unlock AI discoveries that could benefit everyone.”

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