New AI national prize named in University’s honour

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced a new prize for artificial intelligence named after our University’s invention of the first stored programme computer in 1948

The prize of £1m will be awarded every year for the next ten years, to encourage AI research in the UK.

At 11am on 21 June, 1948 the Small Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), nicked named ’The Baby’, started running its first program. It took 52 minutes, running through 3.5 million calculations before it got to the correct answer.

In that process, the Baby became the first computer in the world to run a program electronically stored in its memory, rather than on paper tape or hardwired in.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Chancellor said: "The world’s first stored programme computer was built at The University of Manchester in 1948 and was known as the Manchester Baby. 75 years on the Baby has grown up, so I will call this new national AI award the Manchester Prize in its honour."

Artificial intelligence research has gone from strength to strength at our University since then, building on the legacy of that achievement. Today our University works on fundamental AI, robotics and autonomous systems, advanced manufacturing systems and neuroscience.

Image: Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn programming the Manchester Mark 1 computer.