Dr Jose Miguel Hernandez Lobato and Dr Adrian Weller have been awarded Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships to deliver world-class Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.
The inspirational fellows we are backing today will use AI to tackle some of our greatest challenges head-on, transforming how people live, work and communicate, cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.Science Minister, Amanda Solloway
Fifteen UK researchers have been awarded the Fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing, supported by a £20million government investment, announced today (27 November).
As a result of the government investment, Fellows will work with academia and industry to help elevate their world-class research and transfer their innovations from the lab to the real world. These innovations have the potential to change how people live, work and communicate, helping to place the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution.
Dr Hernandez Lobato’s research focus will be on ‘Machine Learning for Molecular Design’.
Many existing challenges, from personalised health care to energy production and storage, require the design and manufacture of new molecules. However, identifying new molecules with desired properties is difficult and time-consuming. Dr Hernandez Lobato aims at accelerating this process, by creating robust and data-efficient generative models of molecules that will work by placing atoms in 3D space, and that will provide synthesis information for the generated molecules.
The final goal is to use these models to design more effective flow batteries and solar cell components and accelerate the drug discovery process, to create economic and effective drugs that can significantly improve the health and lifestyle of millions.
Dr Hernandez Lobato said: “The discovery of new molecules can bring enormous technological and societal progress. However, identifying the few molecules with useful properties among the many irrelevant ones is very expensive, with pharmaceutical companies spending on average up to billions on each new drug. We will contribute to reducing these huge costs by creating new deep learning methods for automatic molecular design.”
Dr Weller’s research focus will be on ‘Trustworthy Machine Learning’.
Machine learning presents tremendous opportunities for society but also introduces risks, such as embedding unfair biases or creating new vulnerabilities. It is therefore crucial that we can understand and deliver what is needed for such systems to be trustworthy. Dr Weller will build solid technical underpinnings via new theory and practical algorithms for trustworthy deployment focusing on three key measures: fairness, interpretability and robustness.
To make progress and enhance impact, these measures will be grounded in specific settings, while engaging with real-world practitioners and stakeholders in order to face the inevitable interactions and tradeoffs that occur in context. The work will examine applications in criminal justice and healthcare: two domains with high stakes decisions and clear outcome goals.
Dr Weller said: “I am thrilled to secure this Fellowship to help build the foundations for the trustworthy deployment of machine learning systems, which is key to enable us to enjoy the benefits of Responsible AI. Machine learning presents great hope to improve the consistency and efficiency of sound judicial decisions and beneficial patient outcomes, but also raises important ethical concerns which this work will address, engaging with expert partners.”
Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said: "The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we have a duty to arm the next generation of Alan Turings with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.
"The inspirational fellows we are backing today will use AI to tackle some of our greatest challenges head-on, transforming how people live, work and communicate, cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data."
Digital Minister, Caroline Dinenage, said: "The UK is a nation of innovators and this government investment will help our talented academics use cutting-edge technology to improve people's daily lives – from delivering better disease diagnosis to managing our energy needs."
EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: “The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will support some of our leading researchers to progress their careers and develop ground-breaking AI technologies with societal impact.
“By enhancing collaboration between academia and industry and accelerating these transformative technologies, these Fellowships will help to maintain and build on the UK’s position as a world leader in AI.”
About the Fellowships
The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will accelerate and support the careers of a diverse cadre of the best and brightest AI researchers enabling them to become world-leading researchers in the five years of the award.
These Fellowships will increase collaboration between academia and industry, with each fellow bringing together a wide range of partners on their projects to accelerate the impact of their transformative AI technologies. Partners have already committed to cash and in-kind contributions in excess of £10million.
The Fellowships form part of a major government investment in AI skills and research, including 16 Centres for Doctoral Training in AI and conversion courses to train the next generation of AI experts, announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in October 2019.
The Fellowship scheme will be delivered by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute and Office for Artificial intelligence.
It follows the publication of the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap in June this year, which committed to investing in groundbreaking research and supporting the UK’s risk takers to scale up their innovations.