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Cardiff lends expertise to UK-wide AI research initiative

6 February 2024

Concept image of a map of the UK where points are connected by lines of light.
The investment by EPSRC underlines the UK’s commitment to maintaining a leadership position in AI research, innovation, and ethical deployment.

Cardiff University researchers will contribute their expertise to three of nine new artificial intelligence (AI) hubs delivering next-generation innovations and technologies to propel the UK to the forefront of advanced AI research.

From combating cyber threats, to supporting better health treatments and speeding up the development of electrical devices and microchips, the hubs aim to transform the way AI is created and used, with a key focus on human centred design crosscutting all themes.

An £80 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the initiative underlines the UK’s commitment to maintaining a leadership position in AI research, innovation, and ethical deployment.

Researchers from Cardiff University’s Schools of Psychology and Mathematics will support the AI for Collective Intelligence (AI4CI)hub led by the University of Bristol.

The hub will develop new machine learning and smart agent technologies fuelled by real-time data streams to achieve collective intelligence for individuals and national agencies.

Photograph of people in the transport simulator at a laboratory in Cardiff University’s School of Psychology.
The Centre for AI, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems simulation laboratory, based at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, features a highly immersive VR cave, command and control centre, and transport simulator.

Professor Phillip Morgan of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology said: “As a multidisciplinary team we will deliver cutting edge research to optimise ‘smart’ human and AI decision making for key areas such as environmental intelligence, financial stability, healthcare ecosystems, pandemic resilience, and smart city design.”

I’m particularly looking forward to co-leading the human-centred design theme which is vital to developing AI for collective intelligence within our identified domains. We will apply methods from cognitive and social psychology and human factors to derive human-centred design principles for effective trustworthy AI agents that achieve behavioural change at scale within socio-technical human-AI collectives.

The hub will draw on expertise from Cardiff University’s Digital Transformation Innovation Institute, Centre for AI, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems (IROHMS) and Human Factors Excellence (HuFEx) research group.

Another of the hub’s thematic focuses will be on financial stability.

Professor Maggie Chen of Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics, who will be co-leading this theme, said: “This is the perfect time to address the important issue of financial stability, especially given our current economic climate and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.”

Financial technologies have been swiftly developed to answer challenges arising from difficult economic and societal conditions like the Covid-19 pandemic. But these solutions have also raised many new ethical questions and even created frictions and divides across society. So, it’s fantastic to win a large-scale national funding bid from EPSRC to investigate the ways in which the most cutting-edge AI technology can be used in meaningful ways to help with real world problems.

Professor Maggie Chen Personal Chair

The hub will draw on Cardiff University’s leadership in Fintech research in Wales with support from local and national Fintech networks and ecosystems.

It will collaborate with a range of financial institutions, educational organisations, regulators, SMEs, charitable organisations and communities to co-create practical, sustainable and trustworthy solutions that benefit financial decision making.

Professor Chen added: “Our partners are often the inspiration and driving force behind many advancements in financial technology. We are looking forward to working with them again through the hub and engaging with new partners to carry out exciting inter-disciplinary research.”

Researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics will also support the AI hub in Generative Models.

Led by University College London, the hub will develop tools that industry, science and government can use to build responsible generative models to benefit the economy and society.

Professor Yukun Lai of Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics said: “We’ve seen significant breakthroughs in generative AI models, and some well-known examples include ChatGPT for text generation, Stable Diffusion for image generation, and Sora for video generation. In these areas and many more specialised areas, generative AI can revolutionise how new content is generated, greatly reducing human effort required.

“It can also streamline business processes, accelerate scientific discovery, and make content more available and accessible.”

We’re excited here in Cardiff to be part of the national consortium to develop next generation generative AI technologies, ensuring they are reliable, efficient and responsible, addressing practical challenges, and benefiting the economy and society.

Professor Yukun Lai

The National Edge AI hub for Real Data will also draw on the expertise of researchers from Cardiff University’s Schools of Computer Science and Informatics and Engineering.

Edge AI research is the study of how to apply AI techniques near the source of the data instead of sending it to the cloud or a central server.

Led by the University of Newcastle, the hub will focus on the effect of cyber disturbances on the effectiveness and resilience of edge AI, with a particular focus on cyber threats and how to make it more secure and robust.

The hubs will also develop a new generation of talent through postgraduate research and postdoctoral research opportunities focused on AI technologies and applications.

Professor Roger Whitaker, Cardiff University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, said: “With momentum gathering at pace in the deployment of AI, it’s vital we understand the underpinning innovations and technologies so that digital transformation across society, in our economy and our environment can unfold in a responsible way.

“I’m therefore delighted to see colleagues from across Cardiff University contributing their expertise in sociotechnical aspects of AI to this nationwide initiative.”

They’ll be tackling fundamental questions around human-centred design, financial stability, cyber security and responsible innovation together with collaborators in academia and industry, all the while helping to train postgraduate and early career researchers to meet the challenges presented by these revolutionary technologies.

Professor Roger Whitaker Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Professor of Collective Intelligence

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