Government launches £68 million AI and robotics fund

Last updated on: November 10, 2017, Author: Editorial Team

The Government has announced more than £68 million of investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) for a programme of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) projects aimed at improving safety in extreme environments.

£44.5 million will be used to set up four new research hubs based at the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Surrey and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

The centres of excellence, managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be responsible for developing robotic technology to enable safer working environments in space and deep mining and the hazardous and harsh environments of nuclear energy and off-shore wind.

As well as receiving government investment, the four hubs will be supported by £51.6 million of industry support from commercial and international partners, and UK Space Agency is co-funding the University of Surrey hub.

Minister for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry said: “Britain leads the world in innovation and technology and through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, we are making £68m available to projects in robotics and artificial intelligence with applications in clean renewable energy generation to ensure the UK is the place new technology is nurtured.”

Meanwhile, £16.5 million has been allocated to work following a collaborative R&D competition run by Innovate UK, in which more than 70 businesses, 13 universities and 10 research organisations were successful. Alongside this, 17 demonstrator projects will receive £3m following a separate Innovate UK competition.

The funding round is completed with a £4.3 million grant to the Natural Environment Research Council, which will fund five research projects at the National Oceanography Centre and the universities of Exeter and Southampton. These projects are intended to develop sensors capable of working in the ocean’s extreme conditions.

Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: “These new Robotics Hubs will draw on the country’s research talent to nurture new developments in the field of robotics and provide the foundations on which innovative technologies can be built.

“The resulting outcomes from this research will allow us to explore environments that are too dangerous for humans to enter without risking injury or ill-health. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is helping us achieve a joined up approach to research, discovery and innovation.”

Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said: “These pioneering projects driven by the very best minds in UK research and industry exemplify the huge potential of what can be achieved through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the long-term benefits for the UK economy.

“These are just the first competitions in robotics and AI, there will be further opportunities for businesses in the coming months.”

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