UKRI announces funding for three new CDTs in artificial intelligence led, or co-led by the School of Informatics

[02/11/2023] This week UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced an investment in 12 new CDTs in AI, 3 of which will be led, or co-led by the School of Informatics.

“We, at the School of Informatics, are proud to be hosting three UKRI AI CDTs. Our success in securing these grants underscores our position as leading researchers and educators within the AI community.  We look forward to welcoming and training the next generation of scientists in AI for NLP, biomedical innovation and dependable robotics.”

Professor Helen Hastie
Head of School of Informatics

The investment will continue to ensure that the UK has the skills needed to seize the potential of the AI era and nurture the next generation of scientists who will push the forefront of AI research.

Biomedical Innovation: AI in Healthcare

UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Biomedical Innovation, led by Professor Ian Simpson, will teach students to use AI to improve the diagnosis, understanding, management, and treatment of disease. Students will be trained in ethical, secure, and responsible research methods throughout the programme. They will be primed to practise responsible and trustworthy use of AI in research, which is fundamental to maintaining the public’s trust in the use of health data. A wealth of expertise from across the University, national bodies, external partners and expert advisory and patient involvement and engagement groups will support the programme.

“AI has tremendous potential to improve outcomes for patients by supporting clinicians to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis, monitoring emergence and progression of symptoms, and aiding the collection and analysis of data to evaluate the effects of treatment. AI is already being used in the NHS to the benefit of over 300,000 patients to date and is widely used in companies to develop a deeper understanding of diseases and develop new drugs to treat them.”

Professor Ian Simpson
Director, UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Biomedical Innovation
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Students in the CDT in Biomedical Innovation will work with external partners in the private and public sectors to ensure their research addresses critical challenges in healthcare maximising the potential for AI to have a positive impact on society. The CDT will build upon the expertise of the existing CDT in Biomedical AI.

Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP: building responsible LLMs of the future

UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP will be led by the School of Informatics in collaboration with Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Law School, and the Schools of Mathematics and Psychology, Philosophy and Language Sciences, and will be hosted by the new Edinburgh Futures Institute. Professor John Vines will direct the CDT.

Natural Language Processing underpins many leading-edge AI applications such as personal assistants (such as Siri, and Alexa), chatbots (such as ChatGPT) and generative AI applications that use text prompts to generate other media (such as Midjourney, DALL-E).

These technologies enable new ways of working and accessing services and knowledge but are accompanied by risks.  

Understanding how complex AI systems that utilise natural language, such as large language models (LLMs), operate in the world is critical to ensuring a responsible, sustainable, and socially sensitive design that steers clear of common LLM issues such as bias. To achieve this, systems of the future must be built by multidisciplinary, and diverse teams who understand the complexities of responsibly developing, deploying, and overseeing these systems in real-world settings.

“We recognise that NLP, and AI in general, are technologies that have thus far been deployed on citizens and the public, rather than designed with and by them. A core part of our training is on how issues of inclusion and exclusion are baked into the history of AI, and introducing students to state-of-the-art participatory and co-creative methodologies so they are ready to involve diverse users in the earliest stages of application design.”

Professor John Vines
Director, UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP

Students in the UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Responsible and Trustworthy in-the-world NLP will be trained across the technical, social, design and legal aspects of these systems, and most critically how to collaborate across disciplines in teams of hybrid expertise.

Dependable and Deployable AI for Robotics: Robots in the real world

UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Dependable and Deployable Artificial Intelligence for Robotics will be led by Heriot-Watt University in partnership with the University of Edinburgh. Schools of Informatics and Engineering are both hosting the CDT, with Professor Subramanian Ramamoorthy as co-director. Professor Ron Petrick, a Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University will be the CDT Director.

To make a difference in our homes and workplaces, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies - such as AI assistants for independent living, manufacturing and construction robots or robots working in extreme conditions - need to be safe, dependable, and trustworthy

While AI methods are finding increasing adoption within robotics, these technologies were not originally designed with safety and other human-centred requirements in mind. Making AI suitable for such dependable and deployable products will require a new way of thinking.

CDT-D2AIR will train experts who can think in new ways around researching, designing, building, and deploying dependable and safe robotics and AI solutions.

“As cutting-edge research in robotics and AI reaches the stage where widespread deployment is feasible, issues around safety, dependability and trustworthiness become ever more critical. We will train cohorts of innovation-ready PhD graduates with the necessary breadth and depth of training to address these challenges faced by our external partners and other organisations across the UK and beyond.”

Professor Subramanian Ramamoorthy
Co-Director, UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Dependable and Deployable Artificial Intelligence for Robotics

Multi-million investment in the next generation of AI innovators

£117 million in total has been awarded to the 12 CDTs, which will train the next generation of AI researchers from across the UK. This builds on the previous UKRI investment of £100 million in 2018.

Doctoral students will specialise in areas such as developing a responsible and trustworthy future for AI, healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability to media.

“The UK is in a strong position to harness the power of AI to transform many aspects of our lives for the better. Crucial to this endeavour is nurturing the talented people and teams we need to apply AI to a broad spectrum of challenges, from healthy aging to sustainable agriculture, ensuring its responsible and trustworthy adoption. UKRI is investing £117 million in Centres for Doctoral Training to develop the talented researchers and innovators we need for success.”

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser
UKRI Chief Executive

Related links

Link to the announcement on the UKRI website