A new virtual centre has been launched by UCL and Cisco, the multinational technology giant, with a vision to unlock AI’s multi-faceted benefits for both the economy and planet.
By pooling their world-class expertise in artificial intelligence, the Cisco x UCL Global Centre of Excellence, will facilitate a raft of new pioneering research to help amplify AI’s transformative potential.
News of the collaboration comes as the UK Government announces its National AI Strategy , setting out its ten-year plan to "make Britain a global AI superpower."
The UCL/Cisco centre will play a pivotal role in supporting this aim, helping support the UK’s transition to an AI-enabled economy.
UCL is the first UK university to become a Cisco AI Global Centre of Excellence, building on a long-standing partnership between the two organisations.
Professor David Barber (UCL Computer Science), a Professor of Machine Learning who leads the new Centre, said: "Our partnership with Cisco supports our vision for AI to make a positive impact and be a force for good in the world. This new collaboration is the next step in UCL’s long standing relationship with Cisco, which dates back to the beginnings of the Internet."
Ramana Kompella, Distinguished Engineer & Head of Research, Emerging Technologies & Incubation at Cisco, said: " Over the past year, Cisco Research has worked out Centre of Excellence agreements with a number of top universities within the United States and funded several research projects through these agreements.
"The first university that we considered outside of the US for a Centre of Excellence agreement was UCL, which has the reputation of hosting some of the most eminent faculties in the world. We were impressed by the cutting-edge research happening in AI/ML and have already started to fund projects with more in the future as we systematically explore other areas of interest."
Cisco was a founding partner of the UCL AI Centre, launched in 2019, which has now become a hub for UK innovation, supporting the creation of a number of AI spinout companies and technologies.
Cisco are also a partner of UCL’s UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Foundational AI, central to producing PhD graduates capable of leading research breakthroughs in AI.
Professor Geraint Rees, UCL’s Pro-Vice Provost of AI, added: "The new Global Centre of Excellence agreement is extremely exciting, with potential for the research to help address some of the greatest challenges our societies and the environment face. It opens the door to taking the UK’s AI and Machine Learning research to the next stage.
Bringing some of the greatest AI minds together
In the last three years alone, Cisco has supported 18 AI masters scholarships for under-represented groups at UCL. Through an initiative to encourage girls into careers in AI, Cisco and UCL also welcomed 150 sixth-form girls onto a custom AI programme.
As part of the new centre, Cisco will provide research funding for UCL PhD students, focused on the application of AI, primarily in the fields of collaboration technology, networking and cybersecurity. The new agreement, negotiated by UCL Computer Science Strategic Alliances Team (SAT), will enable academics doing relevant AI and ML research from across the university to apply for funding from Cisco.
Cisco’s UK Chief Technology Officer Chintan Patel added: "A key element of the government’s UK strategy is to support the transition to an AI-enabled economy. We believe the way we will do so is not just in the wild and wonderful use of robots or algorithms, but through the application of AI to solve real challenges for industry and society. We’re now bringing some of the greatest minds together to work on this, to explore how we can use AI to solve real problems in a pragmatic, sustainable way."
Harnessing the potential, addressing the challenges
AI is widely used in sectors ranging from health and education to science and art, with consumers regularly encountering machine learning without realising. Everyday tasks such as applying for bank loans or running online searches are governed by AI; the AI system suggests the best bank loan option or best search result - all run behind the scenes and not normally visible to the consumer.
The potential for AI technologies is vast including how this can affect industries such as transport through autonomous vehicles, agriculture through automated farming and healthcare through personalised medicine. It also has the potential to change the way we work through supporting and enhancing productivity.
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: "This is a fantastic example of a strategic alliance between UCL and a global technology company with a shared ambition to help shape the future of AI in the UK and around the world. This collaboration agreement is likely to generate hugely positive impacts for many industries, including healthcare, education and logistics."