Samsung UK to open new AI centre in Cambridge
Andrew Blake Samsung
Professor Andrew Blake (Credit: Alan Turing Institute)

Samsung UK to open new AI centre in Cambridge

South Korean electronics giant Samsung is to open a new artificial intelligence (AI) research centre in Cambridge, England.

The technology hub will explore the capabilities of diverse, human-centred AI, said the company in an announcement this morning.

The Cambridge AI Centre joins established Samsung AI labs in Moscow and Toronto. The company hopes to gather the fruits of its new research network by building what it describes as “an open ecosystem of devices” that are powered by AI and offer demonstrable benefits to human beings.

In March, the company also announced plans to open an AI lab in Paris, France.

Blake’s heaven

The new Samsung AI Centre in Cambridge will be chaired by AI and computer vision pioneer Professor Andrew Blake, who has held the positions of distinguished scientist and laboratory director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, and research director at the UK’s data science foundation, the Alan Turing Institute.

Professor Blake said:

The centre’s research will help us to better understand human behaviour, exploring areas like emotion recognition, and further expand the boundaries of user-centric communication to develop AI technologies that ultimately improve people’s lives.

His appointment reflects Samsung’s strategy for the centre to collaborate closely with UK academia, in the hope that the company can establish itself as a leader in the field, with benefits for society and new growth opportunities for the economy.

Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the news:

It is a vote of confidence in the UK as a world leader in artificial intelligence, and the new AI research centre will benefit from the world-renowned talent and academic prowess of Cambridge.

In April, the government launched its new Sector Deal for AI with a range of industry partnerships and private investments, alongside central funding from the Exchequer. The government also announced new roles for AI in the health service – news that was followed this week by a number of implementations of the technology by NHS hospitals.

Internet of Business says

Blake recently stepped down from the Turing Institute to pursue his own research interests in AI, with a particular focus on autonomous vehicles. Samsung’s stock of electric vehicle patents means that it could forge a new role for itself in transport as opportunities for driverless and electric vehicles expand.

With its diverse product offerings and scale – as the world’s largest chipmaker by revenue – Samsung could implement AI in numerous sectors. Meanwhile, its Bixby smart assistant seeks to emulate the success of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, IBM’s Watson, and Google Assistant.

However, it has a lot of ground to make up against the likes of Microsoft and Google, which recently announced their latest manoeuvres in conversational AI.

The competition extends to the battle for talent. The foremost AI researchers are being headhunted by big technology companies, with many European academics being lured by enormous salaries in the US.

Speaking at the Westminster eForum event on AI policy in February, Dame Wendy Hall – co-author of the UK’s AI strategy – acknowledged this challenge, when she said, “I don’t know how we’re going to deal with the salary issue, but that’s another problem altogether. Because if you go to Australia, or Canada, or the States, professors there are already being paid more than the Prime Minster. So how do we attract them to come here? That’s an issue we need to sort out.”

This threatens to create an environment where just a handful of companies and nations possess advanced AI capabilities. So in this context, Blake’s appointment and the establishment of the new centre are particularly good news for the UK.