The government has allocated a £13m investment aimed at advancing research in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) within healthcare.
The move, announced by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, coincides with the appointment of two leading experts tasked with leading the preparations for the upcoming first major international summit on the responsible use of AI.
The funding will support 22 projects spanning universities and NHS trusts across the UK, with focuses ranging from semi-autonomous surgical robotics for tumour removal to predictive health analysis based on existing conditions.
One of the major recipients of the initiative is University College London’s Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences, which will receive more than £500,000.
The project aims to develop a real-time AI “assisted decision support framework” to enhance surgical outcomes, minimise complications following surgery, and reduce patients’ recovery time.
Ms Donelan said: “AI will revolutionise the way we live, including our healthcare system. That’s why we’re backing the UK’s fantastic innovators to save lives by boosting the front line of our NHS and tackling the major health challenges of our time.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay also backed the funding, saying: “AI can help the NHS improve outcomes for patients, with breakthroughs leading to earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and faster recovery.
“It’s already being used in the NHS in a number of areas, from improving diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients to identifying those most at risk of a heart attack.
“This funding is yet another boost to help the UK lead the way in healthcare research.”
The funding is part of the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Technology Missions Fund announced in the Science and Technology Framework.
The UK is also set to host a landmark summit on AI later this year, which will convene world leaders, technology firms, and academics to discuss the responsible deployment of the new technology.
Matt Clifford, chief executive of Entrepreneur First and chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), and Jonathan Black, Heywood Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, have been tasked with spearheading efforts to bring together AI leaders, tech companies, and experts from across the world.
They will serve as representatives of the prime minister, co-ordinating the efforts to ensure the summit yields a comprehensive strategy for mitigating the potential pitfalls of AI technology.
Mr Clifford will be carrying out his role as the PM’s representative in a separate capacity to chair of the ARIA.
Ms Donelan said: “The UK has a proud history of demonstrating diplomatic leadership on the most important issues of the day and Matt and Jonathan’s experience and expertise means that they are perfectly placed to lay the groundwork ahead of talks this year on safe and responsible AI.
“We’re already a leading nation when it comes to artificial intelligence – and this summit will help cement our position as the home of safe innovation.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Artificial intelligence will fundamentally alter every aspect of human life. As AI rapidly evolves, we need a global approach that seizes the opportunities that AI poses while grasping the challenges and minimising the risks.
“No country will be untouched by AI, so with the support of our two expert representatives, the UK is proud to play a leadership role in the global effort to address the challenges and opportunities of AI.”