Professor Zoubin Ghahramani

Five internationally-recognised researchers, including Cambridge’s Professor Zoubin Ghahramani, have been appointed as the first Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellows to conduct work on artificial intelligence’s (AI) biggest challenges.

The other new Fellows are Professor Samuel Kaski from the University of Manchester, Professor Mirella Lapata from the University of Edinburgh, Professor Philip Torr from the University of Oxford, and Professor Michael Wooldridge from the University of Oxford.

The fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing, are part of the UK’s commitment to further strengthen its position as a global leader in the field.

Retaining and attracting some of the best international research talent in a highly competitive international environment will increase the UK’s competitive advantage and capability in AI.

The fellows’ research will have a transformative effect on the international AI research and innovation landscape by tackling some of the fundamental challenges in the field.

It could also deliver major societal impact in areas including decision-making in personalised medicine, synthetic biology and drug design, financial modelling, and autonomous vehicles.

Professor Ghahramani, from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, is Senior Director and Distinguished Researcher at Google, former Chief Scientist at Uber and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In his fellowship, which he will hold jointly while continuing to work at Google, he aims to develop the new algorithms and applications needed to address limitations faced by the AI systems that underpin technologies such as speech recognition and autonomous vehicles. This includes ensuring they can better adapt to new data and apply data-driven machine learning approaches to simulators to understand complex systems.

“The Turing AI Fellowships provide a fantastic opportunity to grow the UK’s research talent in AI, and to build stronger relationships between industry and academia,” said Ghahramani. “Most modern AI systems are based on machine learning technology that learns from patterns in data. This research programme aims to improve such systems by making them more robust and reliable, so that they can better respond to changing circumstances, and better incorporate prior knowledge, symbolic reasoning and data.”

The fellows are supported with an £18 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In addition to this, 39 different collaborators including IBM, AstraZeneca and Facebook are making contributions worth £15.7 million to the fellows’ research programmes.

The fellowships are being delivered by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

“The Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowships recognise internationally-leading researchers in AI, and provide the support needed to tackle some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in AI research,” said EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden. “These fellowships enable the UK to attract top international talent to the UK as well as retaining our own world-leaders. Attracting and retaining top talent is essential to keep the UK at the leading edge of AI research and innovation.”

The Turing AI Fellowships investment is delivered in partnership by UKRI, the Office for AI, and The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and AI.

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