Government announces 22 projects worth £13m exploring AI in health

The secretary of state for science and technology, Michelle Donelan, has announced 22 projects that will explore how to develop and use AI in health.

The announcement comes on the same day that the government appointed two leading experts to spearhead preparations for the UK to host the first major international summit on the safe use of AI.

Matt Clifford and Jonathan Black will be charged with rallying leading AI nations, companies and experts, ahead of the event in the UK this autumn.

Clifford is the CEO of Entrepreneur First and chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. Black is a Heywood Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and former UK G7 and G20 Sherpa and Deputy National Security Adviser.

The projects will involve universities stretching from Edinburgh to Surrey. They will be supported by £13 million from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund, previously announced in the Science and Technology Framework, to support AI innovation to accelerate health research.

This includes more than £500,000 for University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences.

The secretary of state visited it to observe the early development of technology that could revolutionise surgery for one of the most common types of brain tumour.

The project will develop a real-time AI ‘assisted decision support framework’ to improve surgical outcomes, including avoiding complications following surgery and shortening recovery time for patients.

Other funded projects include those led by:

  • University of Sheffield: £463,000 to carry out an external validation of an approach that could lead to much wider, effective treatment of chronic nerve pain. This affects one in 10 adults over 30 to better detect early signs of inflammatory arthritis that could mean earlier, more effective treatment
  • University of Oxford: £640,000 to accelerate research into a foundation AI model for clinical risk prediction that could determine the likelihood of future health problems based on an individual’s existing conditions
  • Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh: £644,000 to develop a system that assists trainee surgeons to practice laparoscopy procedures, commonly known as keyhole surgery, with real-time feedback on their movements
  • University of Surrey: £456,000 will see them work closely with radiologists to develop AI that improves the mammogram analysis process. This could allow radiologists to join the clinical force earlier in their careers, boosting the numbers of cancer specialists

Donelan said: “The UK has a proud history of demonstrating diplomatic leadership on the most important issues of the day and Matt and Jonathan’s experience and expertise means that they are perfectly placed to lay the groundwork ahead of talks this year on safe and responsible AI.

“We’re already a leading nation when it comes to artificial intelligence – and this summit will help cement our position as the home of safe innovation.

“By leading on the international stage, we will improve lives at home. AI will revolutionise the way we live, including our healthcare system. That’s why we’re backing the UK’s fantastic innovators to save lives by boosting the frontline of our NHS and tackling the major health challenges of our time.”

Dr Kedar Pandya, executive director, Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI, added: “The potential for AI to accelerate and improve all aspects of our health is vast.

“The UK is in a strong position in this field but with a range of challenges across many aspects of society, including the healthcare system, novel solutions are needed. That is why UKRI is investing in these projects in order to advance our research and improve health diagnostics and outcomes.”

Dr Antonio Espingardeiro, IEEE member, software and robotics expert commented: “Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to radically transform healthcare delivery and improve outcomes. In recent years, we have seen AI become a credible part of our healthcare ecosystem. As it becomes more sophisticated, AI can efficiently conduct tasks traditionally undertaken by humans, the potential for the technology within the medical field is huge. It can analyse vast quantities of information, and when coupled with machine learning, search through records and infer patterns or anomalies in data, that would otherwise take decades for humans to analyse.

“We are just starting to see the beginning of a new era where machine learning could bring substantial value and transform the traditional role of the doctor. The true capabilities of this technology as an aide to the healthcare sector are yet to be fully realised. In the future, we may even be able to solve of some of the biggest challenges and issues of our time. With the increased adoption of AI and robotics, we will soon be able to deliver the scalability that the healthcare sector needs and establish more proactive care delivery.”

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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