School of Informatics and the University to lead new era of generative AI

[09/11/2023] A bold new multi-million-pound initiative that will push the forefront of generative AI to benefit society and stimulate economic growth has been launched at the University of Edinburgh. The Generative AI Laboratory (GAIL) will unite the University’s world-leading research and innovation in AI to develop safe solutions and systems for industry and government and bring substantial benefits to those who use them. The School of Informatics will lead the initiative.

“GAIL builds on world-class research at the School of Informatics in AI and machine learning, which has been applied to a variety of fields such as healthcare, fintech and sustainability. The School is  well placed to be an anchor for the GAIL cross-disciplinary research and development, by forging key collaborations within the University and with external partners and policymakers.” 

Professor Helen Hastie
Head of School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Background image of wind farm with forefront images of electric pylon, ambulance, inside the Informatics Forum and researcher

The major initiative aims to develop techniques for generative AI in key areas such as robotics, drug discovery, medical diagnoses, semiconductor development, and tackling climate change.  

Experts will also work in partnership with the University’s Centre for Technomoral Futures to take a fresh look at the ethical, legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to ensure the safe and responsible use of AI.   

Generative AI is a type of machine learning that can be used to generate various types of content including text, images, audio, video and computer code.  

Progress in this type of AI has been swift in recent months and generative AI has already transformed business operations, increasing productivity and enhancing areas of academic study. 

The University has a well-established high-performance computing infrastructure with an international reach, which is vital for building AI systems. It currently hosts the UK’s national supercomputer, ARCHER2, and is soon to be one of only a handful of institutes in the world to have a next-generation supercomputer, the Exascale. 

Edinburgh has deep-rooted partnerships with public and private sector institutions that stand to benefit from the innovative uses of generative AI that GAIL will create.  

The interdisciplinary initiative builds on 60 years of research into AI and Computer Science at the University. Since the first research groups were established in 1963, Edinburgh has been a world leader in developing some of the systems that underpin generative AI, including machine learning and Natural Language Processing. 

“Edinburgh is uniquely placed to provide world-class leadership and expertise around generative AI. Once operational, this exciting initiative will create a new pipeline of talent with the skills to both benefit from and shape the economic and societal benefits of this transformational technology.” 

Professor Iain Gordon
Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh 

The Lab will be led by a Director, who will be based in the School of Informatics, working across the University to develop close synergies with other schools, centres and academics across the University and build partnerships globally. Professor Mirella Lapata is the interim Director, with the international search for a Director underway.

Link to the Director of the Generative AI Laboratory recruitment site

Related links

Link to the announcement on the University homepage

Link to the 60 years of Computer Science and AI website