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Edinburgh to lead new era of generative AI

09 Nov 2023

A bold new multi-million pound initiative that will push the forefront of generative AI to benefit society and stimulate economic growth has been launched at the University of Edinburgh.

The Generative AI Laboratory (GAIL) will unite the University’s world-leading research and innovation in AI to develop safe solutions and systems for industry and government and bring substantial benefits to those who use them.

The major initiative aims to develop techniques for generative AI in key areas such as robotics, drug discovery, medical diagnoses, semi-conductor development, and tackling climate change.

Ethical AI frameworks

Experts will also work in partnership with the University’s Centre for Technomoral Futures to take a fresh look at the ethical, legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to ensure the safe and responsible use of AI.

Generative AI is a type of machine learning that can be used to generate various types of content including text, images, audio, video and computer code.

Progress in this type of AI has been swift in recent months and generative AI has already transformed business operations, increasing productivity and enhancing areas of academic study.

High performance computing

The University has a well-established high performance computing infrastructure with an international reach, which is vital for building AI systems. It currently hosts the UK’s national supercomputer, ARCHER2, and is soon to be one of only a handful of institutes in the world to have a next generation supercomputer, the Exascale.

Edinburgh has deep-rooted partnerships with public and private sector institutions that stand to benefit from the innovative uses of generative AI that GAIL will create.

60 years of AI

The interdisciplinary initiative builds on 60 years of research into AI and Computer Science at the University. Since the first research groups were established in 1963, Edinburgh has been a world-leader in developing some of the systems that underpin generative AI, including machine learning and Natural Language Processing.

Professor Iain Gordon, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh, said:

Edinburgh is uniquely placed to provide world-class leadership and expertise around generative AI. Once operational, this exciting initiative will create a new pipeline of talent with the skills to both benefit from and shape the economic and societal benefits of this transformational technology. ”

Professor Helen Hastie, Head of School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, said:

GAIL builds on world-class research at the School of Informatics in AI and machine learning, which has been applied to a variety of fields such as healthcare, fintech and sustainability. The School is well placed to be an anchor for the GAIL cross-disciplinary research and development, by forging key collaborations within the University and with external partners and policymakers. ”

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

Our Enterprise team is supporting an increasing number of staff and student-founded companies featuring generative AI, such as Aveni’s bespoke large language models for the financial services sector; audio designers Black Goblin and voice banking technology from Speak Unique – taking these technologies out in to the world where they can make a difference. ”

Ian Hatch, Edinburgh Innovations’ Head of Business Development for the College of Science and Engineering said:

The School of Informatics is at the forefront of artificial intelligence and GAIL is an exemplary initiative that demonstrates the capabilities and ambition of the Edinburgh ecosystem. We look forward to GAIL leading to more collaborations with the public, private and third sectors to harness AI for the good of both business and society. We urge organisations to get in touch to discover more. ”

Hear from Professor Helen Hastie, Head of School of Informatics