World class AI-research to be done by Warwick academics

Three academics at the University of Warwick have been awarded Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships, in which they will develop novel AI techniques, which could have wide-ranging impact, for example through developing digital twins that can aid us in modelling and understanding air pollution and teaching robots how to collaborate amongst themselves and the world.

The three academics are:

· Dr Theo Damoulas, Department of Computer Science and Statistics

· Professor Yulan He, Department of Computer Science

· Professor Giovanni Montana, WMG

Dr Theo Damoulas’ project, Machine Learning Foundations of Digital Twins, aims to establish the machine learning foundations for AI-enabled digital twins: digital representations of assets and processes that are tied to their physical ‘twins’ through streaming data, information flows and interventions.

Such distributed, constantly-improving, digital twin systems will enable robust simulation and evaluation of ‘what if’ scenarios and pave the way for continuously learning and disentangling complex intertwined phenomena in the real world. The resulting principles and advances will be demonstrated in environmental and urban digital twins that will allow us to better understand and predict air pollution over cities while optimising our policies and mitigation strategies, for example. Dr Damoulas, comments:

“It’s a huge recognition and opens the path for an exciting Machine Learning journey for me and my group on revolutionising Digital Twinning. I am also very proud of Warwick, winning a fifth of these prestigious fellowships and more than any other institution, and proving once more that we are top of the league.”

Professor Yulan He’s project, Event-Centric Framework for Natural Language Understanding (NLU), will look at how NLU can be used in computers. Natural Language Understanding (a branch of AI that aims to allow computers to understand text automatically), may seem easy to humans, but it is extremely difficult for computers because of the variety, ambiguity, subtlety, and expressiveness of human languages.

Professor He will explore how we can develop AI-driven systems with reasoning capabilities which are able to read and comprehend text and formulate an answer automatically when presented with a query, bringing us closer to human-like AI. Such systems will find a wide range of applications including intelligent virtual assistants, automated customer services, smart home, and Question-Answering in the finance and legal domains. Professor He comments:

“I am very delighted to be awarded with the Turing AI Accelerator Fellowship. The Fellowship will provide me with the essential research time and research team to carry out ground-breaking work in collaboration with my project partners. The grand AI challenge that this Fellowship aims to address is to build a machine reading comprehension model mimicking human cognitive process. Since over 80% of the world’s data are held in an unstructured form and spoken/written communication plays a central part in our daily work/life, the methodology to be developed will have a profound impact on society at large.”

Professor Giovanni Montana’s project, Multi-Agent Deep Reinforcement Learning for Sequential Decision Making in Real-World Applications, aims to make advances in Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL), an area of machine learning which teaches artificial decision makers such as robots and software agents how to interact with the world in order to achieve a desired goal. By allowing autonomous systems to learn a wide range of skills without human intervention, DRL will allow them to be effective in various applications, such as industrial assembly lines and warehouse management systems, driverless cars and in decision making for the most appropriate form of medical treatment for patients. Professor Montana comments:

“I am thrilled to have been awarded such a prestigious fellowship that will support an exciting research programme in AI over the next 5 years. The project will aim at developing systems of artificial decision-makers that interact with the real world and autonomously develop collaborative strategies. For instance, in advanced manufacturing, we’ll develop self-coordinating robots in assembly lines that can carry out many different tasks and adapt to changing environments. In digital healthcare, we’ll leverage large volumes of historical NHS data to create an artificial team of specialised clinical experts that can reason under uncertainty and make joint decisions about patient care.”

Professor Pam Thomas, pro-vice chancellor of research at the University of Warwick comments:

“It is a great pleasure to welcome 20% of these prestigious fellowships to the University of Warwick. As the world develops and becomes digitalised artificial intelligence will inevitably be a huge part of the future, and here at Warwick we are striving to help shape that future. I wish all the academics the greatest of success in their research, and look forward to seeing the results.”

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway said:

“The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we have a duty to arm 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.”

Digital Minister, Caroline Dineange, said:

“The UK is a nation of innovators and this government investment will help our talented academics use cutting-edge technology to improve people’s daily lives – from delivering better disease diagnosis to managing our energy needs.”

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said:

“The Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships will support some of our leading researchers to progress their careers and develop ground-breaking AI technologies with societal impact.

“By enhancing collaboration between academia and industry and accelerating these transformative technologies these Fellowships will help to maintain and build on the UK’s position as a world leader in AI.”

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