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First cohort of artificial intelligence and machine learning startups accepted onto Machine Intelligence Garage programme

Posted 24 Jan 2018

Startups have been selected to take part in a programme launched by Digital Catapult, supporting the UK’s role as a global centre for artificial intelligence development.

London, 24th January 2018: Digital Catapult announces the first cohort of startups selected to join Machine Intelligence Garage, the innovation programme driving machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) development in the UK. The initiative, highlighted in November’s Industrial Strategy, will support the government’s ambition to boost the UK’s role as a global hub for AI development.

The selected startups will benefit from access to computation power and expertise, removing a significant barrier to growth in this area. Digital Catapult’s study Machines for Machine Intelligence published at the launch of Machine Intelligence Garage, surveyed approximately 10% of the UK’s AI and machine learning startups, and found that over half are constrained in their growth by access to computation power. A single training run for a ML system can cost upwards of £10,000.

The startups were unveiled at an AI industry event organised by Digital Catapult at its London centre, which formally launched the programme’s first cohort. The event brought together the programme’s partners and collaborators: leading computation power providers, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Graphcore, SpiNNaker, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Centre, EPCC and NVIDIA; along with academics, keynote speakers, and investors.

Machine Intelligence Garage is a critical part of Digital Catapult’s AI strategy, to collaboratively work with industry and academia to promote rapid adoption of AI across sectors and the wider economy.

Dr. Marko Balabanovic, Chief Technology Officer at Digital Catapult, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be announcing the first cohort of AI and ML startups to participate in the Machine Intelligence Garage as part of our work to support early-stage AI development. Machine Intelligence Garage is part of a broad programme at Digital Catapult to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies across UK companies and industries, with particular applications in areas like digital manufacturing or the creative industries where there are potential large gains in growth and productivity.”

“Members of the first cohort have been carefully selected for their innovative use cases in AI, ethical values and ambition. We’re confident that their journey with the Machine Intelligence Garage will provide them with the support, expertise and compute resource they need to reach their full potential.”

Those selected to take part include digital manufacturing startups Intellisense and Predina, digital health startups Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems and GTN, and the natural language processing startup Bloomsbury AI.

Dame Wendy Hall, who also addressed the event via video, said: “As recognised by the recent “Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK” independent review by CEO Jerome Pesenti and myself, access to computation power is amongst the significant barriers to innovation around Machine Learning and AI. It is great to see Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage programme addressing this barrier for startups, and we hope to see cross fertilisation with other organisations such as The Alan Turing Institute that will be looking into similar challenges for the academic community.”

The event was the first opportunity for the startups to meet the partners who will be helping them develop their products, with presentations from Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services. Keynote speeches were delivered by Azeem Azhar, Exponential View and Senior Advisor, Accenture; AI ethics specialist, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford and Fellow of The Alan Turing Institute, Dr. Luciano Floridi; and Dr. Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive Officer, Innovate UK.

Simon Knowles, CTO and co-founder of AI chip company, Graphcore adds: “Our Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) is specifically designed for machine intelligence and its unique architecture means developers can run current machine learning models orders of magnitude faster. More importantly, it lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current technologies, to drive the next great breakthroughs in general machine intelligence. We’ve partnered with Digital Catapult to offer UK start-ups early access to our IPU so they have the performance they need and to let them extend their research in new directions to come up with ground breaking new products that can compete on a global stage.”

Azeem Azhar, Exponential View and Senior Advisor, Accenture comments: “It’s clear that AI is transforming the world, with computation power being a key enabler and a source of competitive advantage. In my last year’s series of articles: ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Computing’ I wrote about how the massive compute requirements of AI will shift the entire industry in unexpected ways. Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage will help level the playing field by giving startups in the UK access to best-in-class resources and expertise. I’m excited to see where the programme’s first cohorts are by the end of the year.”

The programme is available to companies that are developing products or services that use ML or AI. The next Open Call went live on 23 January 2018, with applications to roll every six weeks thereafter.

Applications are assessed based on the strength of the idea submitted and technical implementation plan, availability of data, and the immediacy of the need for computation power. Companies’ ethical use of data is also paramount.

Machine Intelligence Garage will run for three years. The programme is delivered by Digital Catapult as part of the CAP-AI project and is part funded through the European Regional Development Fund and an Innovate UK grant.

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The project is receiving up to £1,034,060 from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European of funding Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.