ISCF Sets £68M for Robotics and AI Development

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) is awarding £68 million to the latest ground-breaking research and innovation projects in robotics and artificial intelligence systems.

The awards announced today are part of the government’s £93 million of funding for the robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in extreme environments programme through the ISCF, which was announced in the April 2017 Budget.

The programme aims to develop robotic solutions to make a safer working environment in industries such as offshore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining, increase productivity and open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities.

The winning projects include:

£4·3 million for NERC to fund five research projects at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), and the universities of Exeter and Southampton to develop sensors capable of working in the ocean’s extreme conditions. The sensors will be compatible with existing marine robotic vehicles or those in development at NOC, such as the Autosub Long Range (ALR) Boaty McBoatface. Summaries of the projects can be found in the notes below.

£44·5 million investment, over three and a half years, for four research hubs managed by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The hubs will develop robotic solutions to enable safer working environments in the areas of off-shore energy, nuclear energy, and space, opening up new cross disciplinary opportunities which are not currently available. They will be national hubs delivering internationally leading research and will be supported by an additional £51·6 million from commercial and international partners. The UK Space Agency is co-funding one of the hubs.

Funding of £16·5 million following a collaborative research and development competition run by Innovate UK – winners include over 70 businesses, 13 universities and 10 research organisations.

Funding of £3 million for 17 demonstrator feasibility studies following a separate competition run by Innovate UK.

NERC Chief Executive Professor, Duncan Wingham, said: “These sensors will help us to better understand our oceans, helping us to manage them sustainably for the future. The projects will develop ambitious new technologies that work in hazardous and extreme environments, maintaining the UK’s world-class status in marine robotics. Other industries, such as the water, aquaculture and industrial waste, are also likely to benefit from these technologies.”

The ISCF is a strategic element of the government’s industrial strategy that aims to ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. Innovate UK and the research councils are taking a leading role in delivering this funding, operating across the country to ensure the UK secures maximum benefit from science and innovation.

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