Lancaster leads on new £9 million mathematics for AI research hub

Hands on laptop with digital AI graphics

Lancaster University is leading on a new world-leading research hub that aims to transform the way we develop and use artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

This major investment of over £9 million to create the ProbAI Hub will bring together leading researchers from mathematics, statistics and computational AI to develop the mathematical foundations of probabilistic AI.

Working closely with partners in industry, researchers at the ProbAI Hub will focus on forging a greater understanding around probability within AI models, enabling AI to evolve and tackle complex problems across applications from weather forecasting to cyber security, and from healthcare to infrastructure planning.

Researchers behind the hub, which is led by Lancaster University and involves the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Warwick, say it will lead to more accurate AI models, greater transparency of the limits of AI models’ predictions, and efficiency improvements that will help reduce the energy demand of AI models.

The ProbAI Hub will be led by Paul Fearnhead, Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Lancaster University.

“This major investment will bring together researchers and partners from a range of different fields to explore and further develop the mathematical foundations of probabilistic AI,” he said. “By gaining a better understanding of the foundations of probabilistic AI, the ProbAI Hub will enable the development of new, more powerful AI tools. This will include more reliable and interpretable AI methods that can be employed in safety-critical applications. Probabilistic insights into AI models will help lead to more efficient AI which may substantially reduce the environmental footprint of AI. Such advances will become invaluable to the developers, and users, of these powerful tools, which are set to become increasingly important for operational and strategic decision-making across a wide range of industries.”

The ProbAI Hub, has received £8.5 million of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The funding comes as part of an £80 million investment in nine AI research hubs that will propel the UK to the forefront of advanced AI research.

A further contribution of more than £1 million has been made by project partners, which includes an initial 12 businesses and governmental organisations.

Professor Peter Atkinson, Executive Dean of Lancaster University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, said: “The field of AI is growing at a rapid pace and these new tools will be invaluable to future economic growth, as well as having the potential to bring great benefits to society.

“This significant investment is a further recognition of the excellent and long-established research strength Lancaster has in mathematics and statistics and follows the recently-announced MARS: Mathematics for AI in Real World Systems investment. These exciting new investments demonstrate that Lancaster is rapidly becoming a leading-force in mathematics for AI.”

Commenting on the EPSRC investment across the nine new AI research hubs, Professor Charlotte Deane, Executive Chair of EPSRC, said: “Artificial intelligence is already transforming our world. EPSRC supports world-leading research to unlock its potential and ensure it is developed and used in an ethical and responsible way. Long-term research funding has led to revolutionary advancements that have made AI a powerful tool for many applications.

“These hubs will deliver revolutionary AI innovations and tools in sectors from healthcare to energy, smart cities and environment. They will achieve this by solving key challenges and improving our understanding of AI helping to drive the increased productivity and economic growth promised by this technology.”

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said: “UKRI is supporting researchers and innovators to develop the next generation of AI technologies that will transform our economy and society. The investments announced today will help to deliver the capability the UK needs to realise the opportunities of this transformative technology.

“Through our £1bn portfolio of investments in AI research and innovation, we are supporting the development of new technologies, boosting skills, and accelerating the adoption of trusted and responsible AI.”

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