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Department of Engineering

UK government backs University of Cambridge and Microsoft mission to build better AI

UK government backs University of Cambridge and Microsoft mission to build better AI

A new research programme launched by the University of Cambridge and Microsoft to help improve artificial intelligence (AI) and transform sectors such as healthcare, is being supported by the UK government, it was announced today (18 October).

Building on the deep collaborative academic-industry partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, we aim to realise the potential of AI to enhance the human experience and to nurture the next generation of AI researchers and talent.

Dr Richard Turner

Machine Learning for Tomorrow: Efficient, Flexible, Robust and Automated is a five-year partnership that will strive to make AI smarter, easier to create and useful to more people. The project seeks to find better ways of compiling and using the data that forms the basis of AI, simplify the development of AI models and reduce errors and bias in real-world applications of the technology. It will do this by improving the fundamental mathematical and computational foundations of AI. 

The project has the potential to reduce healthcare delays for patients, improve how staff communicate and work in businesses around the world, and help designers build better gaming experiences. 

The Government has announced it will be adding to Microsoft’s funding, supporting the University as part of its ‘Prosperity Partnerships’ scheme. This initiative offers funding to universities to leverage industry commitments in a range of areas, including healthcare, technology and manufacturing. 

Dr Richard Turner, team lead and Reader in Machine Learning from the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said: “AI is making huge progress in real-world applications, from speech translation to medical imaging. While we know that AI has the potential to transform sectors from healthcare to gaming, as well as improve overall business productivity, we must not forget we are still in the early stages of its development.

“Building on the deep collaborative academic-industry partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, we aim to realise the potential of AI to enhance the human experience and to nurture the next generation of AI researchers and talent. Investment in basic research and innovation is vital in helping design trustworthy and responsive AI.”

In October 2018, it was announced that the University was joining with Microsoft to help tackle the problem of ‘brain drain’ in AI and machine learning research. As part of the Microsoft Research - Cambridge University Machine Learning Initiative, Microsoft is helping to increase AI and machine learning research capacity and capability at Cambridge.

Christopher Bishop, Technical Fellow and Laboratory Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, wrote at the time: “Through this initiative, we are bolstering the University of Cambridge’s AI research capacity and capability by supporting visiting researchers, postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and interns from the UK and abroad, thereby increasing the flow of people and ideas between the Microsoft Cambridge lab and the University. Staff at the University of Cambridge are already lecturing in the Microsoft AI Residency Program and contributing to major industry-led projects. Microsoft researchers teach at the university and supervise projects at all levels, and this initiative will further increase that exchange of knowledge.”

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