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Southampton's Zepler shares in £100m UK funding to develop AI

27 Feb 2019

Planning new Centre for Doctoral Training in Machine Intelligence for Nano-electronic Devices & Systems – or “MINDS”.

Following a £100 million investment from UK Research & Innovation the University of Southampton says it will be “at the forefront of developing the next generation of experts and leaders in Artificial Intelligence.”

Southampton’s Zepler Institute for Photonics & Nanoelectronics and the School of Electronics & Computer Science will use their share of the funding to create the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Machine Intelligence for Nano-electronic Devices and Systems, known as “MINDS”.

The MINDS CDT, one of 16 new UK centers announced under the latest round of UKRI funding, will lead a research training programme to develop what the UKRI describes as “cohorts of PhDs into the well-rounded innovators a dynamic UK economy and society needs.”

To achieve this, the CDT is designed to bring together a mixture of complementary expertise from within the University and from industry to focus on the benefits of future AI systems and their application in a range of domains including robotics, embedded systems, manufacturing and security, and smart cities and care homes.

Industrial partnerships

These areas will be developed collaboratively with industrial partners including Roke Manor, Thales, Intel, Huawei, AWE, IBM Research, Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, NXP Semiconductors, Royal Bank of Canada, Tata Consultancy Services, IP Group and Set Squared, which will guide the research and translate new technologies through diverse projects.

Professor Tim Norman, director of the MINDS CDT, commented, “Our track record of interdisciplinary research, world-leading facilities, and capacity at Southampton places us in an ideal position to train graduates with the breadth of knowledge, understanding and innovative potential required to realise this hardware-enabled AI vision.

“We offer a unique environment for research and training that spans artificial intelligence, nano-electronics, embedded devices and their practical application, with a long track record of research collaboration between computer science and electronics. Southampton has one of the largest collections of AI researchers in the world boasting over £50 million of funding in this area in the past 10 years touching upon applications such as the Internet of Things and Human-Machine Collaboration.”

Professor Themis Prodromakis, co-director of MINDS CDT, who leads the Electronic Materials & Devices Group, in the Zepler Institute, added, “A significant barrier for the UK to be a leading player in the future of AI is the lack of highly trained experts that have the breadth of perspective required. This is certainly the case for AI in general, as recognised in numerous reports from government and industry, but also in the electronics sector, a significant contributor to the UK economy.”

“Our electronics industry base and robust future market for AI create an urgent need and at the same time great opportunity for the UK to strategically invest into becoming a globally leading supplier of novel hardware technologies delivering AI everywhere,” said Professor Prodromakis.

“The UK needs a significant increase in intellectual capacity and concomitant high-level skills delivering intelligent and efficient hardware solutions and this CDT will deliver the right MINDS for addressing this need.” The MINDS CDT is now recruiting now for students to commence their PhDs in September 2019.

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