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Machine Learning

Inventors of the past inspire new innovation programme

Published on: 23 January 2018

First cohort of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning start-ups give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘tinkering in the garage’.

The first start-ups have been selected to take part in the Machine Learning Garage - a programme launched by the Digital Catapult to support the UK’s role as a global centre for artificial intelligence development.

Named after the humble garage where numerous ideas and innovations have been born and incubated, the programme draws on the expertise of leading academics and industry giants, including experts from Newcastle University’s National Innovation Centre for Data, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Graphcore.

Supporting the government’s ambition to boost the UK’s role as a global hub for AI development, the aim is to give start-ups access to computation power and expertise, removing a significant barrier to growth in this area.

Artificial Intelligence

Newcastle University’s Dr Steve McGough, a senior lecturer in the School of Computing who will lead the project from Newcastle, explains:

The UK is already world-leading in the areas of Machine Learning, however, we are yet to see this great research trickle out from academia into the economy. This is the push to make this happen.

“Machine Learning is any situation in which a computer ‘learns’ to solve a problem by reacting to inputs rather than being programmed through instructions telling it what to do.  Here at Newcastle we take this one step further – using an approach known as Deep Learning.

“This is where artificial ‘neurons’ are connected together to ‘mimic’ the processes in the brain. By connecting many of these neurons together in deep networks it is possible to train a computer to solve many complicated tasks.

“These have included the ability to recognise what is in a picture, performing speech to text conversion and even winning at the game Go.”

Garage inventors

The Machine Intelligence Garage is a programme that helps businesses access the computation power and expertise they need to develop and build machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions.

The concept is built on the idea that many great inventions were born and incubated in someone’s garage. Inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell set up a workshop inside the carriage house behind his father's home where he conducted many of his early experiments; Walt and Roy Disney started making cartoons in a Hollywood garage; and in 1939, Hewlett-Packard built their first product in a garage space on 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto and has since been named the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley.”

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 start-ups, and found that over half are constrained in their growth by access to computation power.

Dr. Marko Balabanovic, Chief Technology Officer at Digital Catapult,said:

“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.”

The programme is available to companies that are developing products or services that use ML or AI.

The Open Call goes 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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