AI research labs: This year’s must-have for governments and tech giants
ucl and cisco to open ai research centre

AI research labs: This year’s must-have for governments and tech giants

Cisco and Grab are the latest technology companies to open AI research labs, reports Malek Murison, as the former invests in London, while the latter partners with Singapore. 

What do industry giants Samsung, Microsoft, Cisco, Google, and Facebook have in common with several academic institutions around the world? Over the past year, all have poured resources into exploring the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), often as part of joint projects supported by central governments.

Part of that process is happening at an academic level, as technology giants seek to hoover up AI research talent by setting up their own labs and/or partnering with established institutions. In part, these decisions are based on geographical factors and the desire to gain a foothold in an area of interest.

Google’s recent decision to open an AI lab in Accra, Ghana, is a good example of that. Samsung and Cisco have also announced new AI labs in the past few months.

Cisco and UCL to launch AI research centre

This week, Cisco confirmed it will be launching another AI research lab, this time in partnership with University College London (UCL).

The move, expected to come to fruition later this year, forms part of the company’s new $100 million (£77 million) commitment to driving digital innovation in the UK. The new centre is expected to house 200-250 researchers.

No doubt Cisco will be anticipating further AI-related success from UCL, following the statement acquisitions of DeepMind – snapped up by Google in 2014 for around £400 million – and, more recently, Bloomsbury AI – bought by Facebook this month to help the social media giant tackle fake news.

“It’s wonderful to renew our partnership with Cisco and work together to up-skill the UK in machine learning and artificial intelligence,” said UCL provost professor Michael Arthur. “I’m particularly looking forward to opening the new AI Centre in the coming months to position us as a sector leader in computer science.”

Supported by the UK government, Cisco will also be launching a digital inclusion programme focused on developing solutions in elderly care, transport, and green energy.

“Technology is permeating everything we do, not only opening up new markets, but creating more opportunities for individuals, businesses, and countries,” said Chuck Robbins, Cisco chairman and CEO.

“Cisco is committed to driving innovation in the UK and to our continued partnership with the UK government through our Country Digital Acceleration programme.

“We believe that the UK’s expertise in AI and its commitment to making sure future innovators have the right digital skills will help ensure the nation’s citizens are well-positioned to capture the opportunity ahead.”

Grab and National University of Singapore launch AI lab for transport innovation

nus and grab open AI research lab

Meanwhile, Grab, the ride-sharing platform popular in Southeast Asia, has launched a $6 million AI research centre in partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The aim is to develop urban transportation solutions and smart city technologies. The move represents Grab’s first major AI lab and NUS’s first centre with a commercial partner.

The laboratory will harness Grab’s position as a fully-operational platform with an endless capacity to gather relevant data about traffic movements.

What NUS president, professor Tan Eng Chye, describes as “a healthy pipeline of well-trained and experienced data scientists and AI researchers for Singapore and beyond” will collaborate on improving driving safety.

For example, they will work to detect and adapt to traffic events and anomalies in real time to improve urban traffic flow, while seeking to mobilise the Grab fleet in ways that help passengers (and drivers) get from A to B more efficiently.

Grab Group CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan said, “Grab has a bold mission to solve Southeast Asia’s most complex challenges, especially the congestion that stifles our cities. We have come a long way and are now improving lives with an unmatched reach and depth of data on millions of routes, journeys, and points of interest.”

“The AI Lab will harness the power of Grab’s data and machine learning with research and talent from a world-leading institution, to become a valuable tool for governments who are bringing smarter transport to their cities in Southeast Asia.”

Internet of Business says

Earlier this year the McKinsey Global Institute reported that AI could soon drive between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion of annual economic value through major industries, including travel, retail, and healthcare.

For many organisations, partnership between business, academia, and government is proving the most promising route towards capitalising on those opportunities.