£37m funding boost for AI projects ahead of UK AI Safety Summit

Michelle Donelan at Kaapaa

Research teams encouraged to bid for a share of £32m for AI projects and a further £5m committed to feasibility studies into pioneering ideas.

In the run up to the UK’s hosting of the first global summit on artificial intelligence (AI) safety, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, has announced that UKRI is investing £37 million in AI projects.

Five million pounds will fund 100 projects located across the country that look at the feasibility of using AI. The projects have over 200 partners and cover a spectrum of high growth sectors.

Developing innovative AI and machine learning

This funding is part of the UKRI Technology Missions Fund, delivered through the BridgeAI programme. It will support businesses and research organisations to develop innovative AI and machine learning solutions to drive productivity and unlock their full potential.

In addition, a new competition, that opened on 27 September 2023, will offer a further £32 million to new projects. This aims to support the development and adoption of AI and machine learning solutions in the priority sectors of transport, construction, agriculture and creative industries.

These will be led by UK businesses and involve collaborations between at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise, one large enterprise and one academic institution or research and technology organisation.

Shaping vital technology

The Secretary of State unveiled the latest support during a visit to Kapdaa, a sustainable fashion brand in Kingston Upon Thames, which has received backing for its AI4Fibres project, using AI for textile and fibres recycling.

Science and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said:

When it is deployed safely and responsibly, AI can and will transform what is possible in the world of work, unlocking gains in productivity and efficiency that could never have been imagined before.

That is why we are backing 100 small teams with the seed of an idea – from using AI to boost clothing recycling to driving housebuilding – to drive them forward. At the same time our £32 million competition will support teams of all sizes to kick their ideas on to the next level, further helping us shape how this vital technology of the future can work for us and grow our economy.

It is also why we are bringing world leaders and tech experts together in just a few weeks’ time for the AI Safety Summit, to build cooperation around the risks and opportunities of this incredibly promising technology and how we manage it safely.

Supporting sustainability

Co-founder of Kapdaa, Nishant Parekh, said:

Our aim is to make the UK self-sufficient for its own textile waste. We are creating a one of a kind AI system completely conceptualised and built in the UK, providing a unique way to reduce landfill.

Eventually, it will create an entirely new sector and inspire young generations to support sustainability.

Demonstrating AI in UK industries

Dr Kedar Pandya, Executive Director, Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI, said:

The feasibility projects UKRI is funding will demonstrate how AI can aid and be incorporated into many of the UK’s industries and sectors.

Similarly, the new competition will develop consortia that involve small, medium and large business partnering with academic and research bodies. This will mean drawing on both the knowledge and practical experiences of partners.

The projects

Kapdaa is developing AI-powered cloth recycling to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental footprint. Its technology can effectively sort and process textile waste by removing zips and buttons to increase recycling and reduce landfills.

Another project, Space Play in Birmingham, is developing bespoke foam models, developed by AI, that can streamline the process of safely transporting delicate artworks and in turn boost productivity.

TradeWork’s AI-assisted project management systems could enable more efficient work scheduling, resourcing, budgeting and completion that in turn drives drives forward housebuilding.

Meanwhile DigiLab in Exeter is helping farmers to identify and verify carbon capture and Better Environment and Transport is exploring AI solutions for net zero transport. These AI solutions will help UK fire and rescue services to move their fleets towards net zero, as the country moves towards phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles from 2030.

Further information

About UKRI Technology Missions Fund

The UKRI Technology Missions funding is designed to exploit the UK’s global leadership in transformative technologies to help solve specific problems, while also helping cement that leading position.

Overall, UKRI is investing £250 million in Technology Missions to enable new and existing capabilities and capacity in artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and engineering biology in the years 2023 to 2025 and beyond. With a further £70 million announced to support future telecommunications.

About Innovate UK BridgeAI

Innovate UK BridgeAI empowers UK businesses in high-growth sectors, driving productivity and economic growth through the adoption of AI. We bridge the gap between developers and end-users, fostering user-driven AI technologies.

With a focus on ethics, transparency, and data privacy, we aim to build trust and confidence in the development of AI solutions.

Strengthening AI leadership, supporting workforces, and promoting responsible innovation, BridgeAI shapes a collaborative and AI-enabled future.

BridgeAI is an Innovate UK funded programme, delivered by a consortium including Innovate UK, Digital Catapult, The Alan Turing Institute, STFC Hartree Centre and BSI.

Top image:  Credit: Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

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