Home » UK government launches £1m cash prize for AI innovation

UK government launches £1m cash prize for AI innovation

by Mark Cantrell
Developers are increasingly turning to AI to navigate market uncertianty

The UK’s brightest minds in the field of AI could win a cool £1m; ‘all’ they have to do is come up with a winning solution to some of the era’s toughest challenges.

Called the Manchester Prize, the inaugural competition challenges AI brainboxes to come up with pioneering uses of the technology to tackle pressing issues in the fields of energy, the environment, and infrastructure.

The namesake of the prize is the Manchester Baby, the world’s first computer with an electronic memory, which was built at the University of Manchester.

The competition, launched by the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT), forms part of the government ambition to place the UK at the forefront of the AI revolution, by supporting over the next decade those at the forefront of developing the technology.

Viscount Camrose, minister for AI and intellectual property, said: “Our decade-long funding commitment for the Manchester Prize will allow the UK to continue harnessing the transformative opportunities of AI for public good.

“AI is already helping us to slash carbon emissions, unlocking incredible advances in healthcare and even improving our productivity in the workplace.

“The focus of this prize in helping tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges serves as a real call to arms for people and organisations from all walks of life to bring forward ingenious solutions.”

For the first two years, the prize will focus on solutions to the challenges surrounding energy, environment and infrastructure.

DSIT says this could include using AI technology to support the transition to electric vehicles by optimising charging methods, reduce household energy consumption by using AI to identify targeted interventions like adding insulation, or help lower costs for consumers by automating energy-intensive processes in manufacturing.

The prize, delivered by Challenge Works, marks the beginning of a decade-long commitment from the DSIT, building on the £3.5bn injection intended to make the UK a science and technology “superpower” announced in this year’s Spring Budget.

This is delivering a £2.5bn Quantum Strategy, which aims to bring new investment, fast-growing businesses and high-quality jobs to the UK, and £1bn to create the next generation of supercomputing and AI research.

Inspiring research

Jeremy Hunt, chancellor of the exchequer, said: “Manchester is the birthplace of the world’s first modern computer, and has inspired countless innovations in computer science. I hope this prize will in turn inspire the next generation to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges.

“The UK is the leading European tech ecosystem ahead of Germany and France, and with initiatives like this we can cement our position as a science and technology superpower, helping grow our economy.”

According to DSIT, the Manchester Prize is an open competition, and as such will enable a much broader community of innovators to enter, allowing the UK to draw on talent across all sectors.

Andrew Bowie, energy minister, said: “Embracing AI could help build on the incredible progress we have made to decarbonise our energy system. From predicting real-time solar power generation to better grid management, the technology has huge potential to help cut emissions by 2030.

“The government has already provided £3.75m for AI-based decarbonisation projects, and this new competition funding is an exciting opportunity to unleash new innovation.”

Image credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay


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