Two artificial intelligence (AI) technology projects at the University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde are among 15 to receive a share of £20m in UK Government funding.
The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships are designed to give researchers the resources to develop their innovations for the real world, from speeding up medical diagnosis to increasing workplace productivity.
Named after British AI pioneer Alan Turing, the scheme will be delivered by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute and Office for Artificial Intelligence.
Antonio Hurtado, senior lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, received £1.16m. He aims to meet the growing demand across the UK economy to process large volumes of data fast and efficiently, while minimising the energy required to do so.
His AI technology will use laser light, similar to those used in supermarket checkouts, to perform complex tasks at ultrafast speed – from weather forecasting to processing images for medical diagnostics.
Hurtado said: “AI systems are key tools to make sense of huge volumes of data but consume very high levels of energy and increasingly contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Operating in a similar way to the biological neurons that process information in the brain, the new photonic devices will be able to process data at high speeds while reducing energy consumption, helping the UK to meet its net zero carbon ambitions by 2050.”
Jeff Dalton, assistant professor at the University of Glasgow, received £1.59 million. He aims to revolutionise voice-based personal assistants, moving beyond the simple tasks and limited conversations performed by current assistants, such as Alexa and Siri.
His team will be developing novel deep learning-based methods capable of supporting long-running, more natural conversations, enabling more explainable machine reasoning, simplified assistant development, and interactive agents capable of learning to ask questions and offer feedback.
Dalton said: “Our goal is to democratise the emerging ‘voice web’ by enabling non-experts to rapidly develop assistants using open-source technology.
“The fellowship will accelerate our research using large-scale machine learning models to create the next generation of assistants capable of deeper language understanding and more transparent reasoning.”
Science minister Amanda Solloway MP said: “Scotland has a rich history of innovating and the inspiring projects we are backing today – from AI that can process data at lightning speed to virtual assistants performing complicated information tasks- will help to transform the way we live and work, while cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.”