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AI ‘doctor’s assistant’ among projects given £20m

The British government has awarded £20m to fund artificial intelligence projects such as a computerised system that advises doctors on the best treatment to give patients.

As part of the Turing fellowship scheme, the money will be shared between 15 AI UK university projects, which include developing more effective ways of treating cancer and supporting efforts to tackle climate change.

These AI software systems make the decisions that usually require human expertise and have the potential to allow tasks to be performed faster and more accurately than they are by people.

Professor Aldo Faisal, of Imperial College London, is leading a project called The Doctors Assistant. It is able to recommend medical interventions like prescribing drugs in a way that is understandable to doctors and which could help them make the best final decision on a course of action for a patient.

Similarly, Prof Christopher Yau, of Manchester University, leads another project which aims to use AI to spot cancer before it spreads. Prof Yau explains that it involves using genomic sequencing – the ability to sequence the full complement of DNA contained in the nuclei of human cells. Medical experts will be able to track cancer more accurately, help them decide earlier what treatments to advise and increase the chances of saving lives as treatment given earlier is usually more successful.

There is a growing demand across the UK economy to process large volumes of data, not only quickly and efficiently, but with the minimum amount of energy. Doctor Antonio Hurtado, of the University of Strathclyde, leads another project which uses laser light, similar to the technology used in supermarket checkouts, to perform complex tasks at ultrafast speeds. Being able to perform these tasks at lightning speed with minimal energy consumption may well transform industries such as healthcare and finance, helping the UK to meet its net zero ambitions by 2050.

Science minister, Amanda Solloway, said:

The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we have a duty to equip the next generation of Alan Turings with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation. The inspirational fellows we are backing today will use AI to tackle some of our greatest challenges head on, transforming how people live, work and communicate, cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.