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Oxford to host new AI research hub

The University of Oxford is set to share in an £80 million pound investment to launch foundational new AI research. The investment will provide nine new hubs across the UK with the aim of propelling the country towards being a global centre for AI.

The hub will be based in the Department of Computer Science and will bring together experts in the mathematical, computational and algorithmic fields that underpin the technology. 

The Oxford hub will explore fundamental questions about AI technology such as how it can be implemented safely and how to improve algorithmic efficiency. It will also investigate how machine learning models can be used to reveal hidden underlying structures in data. The research conducted will seek rigorous mathematical answers to these questions.

AI has a wide variety of practical uses in many different areas of life: from designing smart cities and optimisation problems to drug development and disease control. Although some people are concerned about the risks of AI developments, the project will fund an additional ten scoping studies to help define responsible AI technology.

The £80 million funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, and will be split among the various hubs. 

There are high hopes for the project, which will bring together a wide range of specialist researchers in many areas of mathematics and computation, and provide opportunities for 13 PhD students to be trained in foundational AI research. 

Pioneering Oxford AI researcher, Professor Michael Bronstein (Department of Computer Science), who will lead the project, said that he expects this to be a “transformative cross-fertilisation”, bringing together researchers in the fields of geometry, topology and probability with opportunities to collaborate in new problems of deep significance. 

Minister for AI Viscount Camrose, said: “These hubs will nurture new, cutting-edge breakthroughs, from healthcare treatments and more power efficient electronics to machine learning and chemical discovery.”

Alongside the Oxford centre, there will be eight other hubs opening at universities including Edinburgh, UCL, Warwick and Bristol. This nationwide breadth of the project underlines the government’s intention for the UK to become a global AI leader.

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