UK-Canadian projects to support the development of responsible AI
  • Ten UK-Canada projects are to support the responsible development of artificial intelligence (AI), including ensuring all members of society trust AI and benefit from it
  • Topics include creating technology to better detect and monitor global disease outbreaks, countering abusive online language, and improving labour market equality
  • Three Canadian federal research funding agencies have contributed CA$5 million, while the AHRC, EPSRC, ESRC and MRC have contributed £5 million through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration (FIC)

You may think it doesn’t affect you, but AI, machine learning and automation are already a big part of all of our daily lives. When you open your phone using your face as your ID, that relies on AI. When you use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, AI personalises what you see on your feeds based on past history. Google relies on AI to scan the internet, and Google maps and other travel apps like Waze use AI to give you real-time traffic and suggest ways to avoid gridlock. 

At a broader level, AI is used in the development of autonomous vehicles, biometrics, cybersecurity, healthcare, and in so-called smart cities.

But if AI is to be deployed even more widely, how can we be sure it is developed and used responsibly, that it doesn’t have a disruptive effect on the economy and society, and that all members of society both trust and benefit from it?

To find out, UK and Canadian researchers have joined forces for the first time, leading on ten interdisciplinary projects, worth £8.2 million, focused on a range of topics aimed at answering these questions. These include creating technology to better detect and monitor global disease outbreaks, helping neurosurgeons perform surgery, informing the development of AI transportation systems for an ageing population, countering abusive online language, and improving labour market equality.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Science, Innovation and Industry in Canada, said:

“Artificial intelligence is transforming all industries and sectors, opening up more opportunities for Canadians.

“Today, we take one step further toward ensuring that AI innovation and growth builds competitive and resilient economies, and maximize the social and health benefits in both Canada and in the UK.”

ESRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Jennifer Rubin, said:

“The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation in our lives is generating a range of challenges and opportunities that demand better understandings and sophisticated solutions. This raises social, technical, and cultural questions that the social sciences in collaboration with other disciplines can help address.

“Recent work has revealed that there is not enough interdisciplinary collaboration in AI research, and that building bridges between the mathematical and computational sciences and other disciplines will enrich the field.

“Collaborating with Canadian funding agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) and other UKRI research councils (AHRC, EPSRC and MRC) on these projects using an interdisciplinary approach will contribute to the inclusive, responsible and impactful development of AI technologies, and address important economic, societal, health and global challenges.”  

The projects will encourage new, interdisciplinary and international partnerships in responsible AI research, and promote enhanced infrastructure and training for researchers in Canada and the UK. They will each run for three years and started on 1 February 2020.

ENDS

Contact

For UKRI media enquiries, contact press@ukri.org or Tamera Jones on 0734 202 5443 or tamera.jones@ukri.org

For Canadian media enquiries, contact Michelle Paradis, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Tel: 343-549-6141, Michelle.Paradis@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca