Introducing the AI-deas challenge projects

Jessica Montgomery

05 February 2024

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Through AI-deas, ai@cam will provide seed-funding and support to kick-start five ambitious, interdisciplinary projects that translate the University’s AI expertise into real-world benefit. After an open call for ideas  and a rigorous selection process, we’re thrilled to announce the winners. 

The five funded projects will take on pressing societal issues: fertility, climate change and biodiversity, language and communication, mental health and the public sector use of AI. 

These have been selected because they illustrate ai@cam’s vision for AI research: interdisciplinary by design, grounded in real world need, and with a clear plan for cross-sectoral collaboration – bringing affected communities, public sector, industry or civil society into the process. The aim is to kickstart research that bridges the gap between AI development and public value, funding projects that may otherwise have struggled to get off the ground in the traditional funding environment, because of their interdisciplinary nature.

ai@cam has been delighted with the positive response from academics to the AI-deas initiative, which has showcased a vibrant community of researchers across all career levels who are passionate about connecting AI to public interest. 

The five projects will make the most of the expertise, talent and collaboration that exists at University of Cambridge and beyond to: 

AI-deas is ai@cam’s first major initiative, and will form part of a wider programme designed to deliver on the University’s AI mission. Through research funding, partnerships within and outside of the university, and education, we aim to more powerfully connect what happens in the university lab to the outside world. You can read more about the projects on our news and project pages.

We’re excited to share updates here as the projects take shape. Sign up for our mailing list here to be kept in the loop.

“These are exactly the kinds of ambitious projects that are vital to delivering AI that serves society, but too often are neglected in the traditional funding landscape, because they require intensive collaboration across disciplines. I’m thrilled we have a mechanism for enabling them. Cambridge is already home to some of the most groundbreaking AI research, and AI-deas encourages further creativity and innovative thinking in this area.“

  • Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at University of Cambridge, and Steering Group member of ai@cam 

“The positive response we’ve had to the AI-deas initiative proves there’s a vibrant community of researchers across all career levels who are passionate about connecting AI to public interest. AI has the potential to drive progress on the things that actually matter to people. The selected projects in this round of funding show how we can make that happen - for instance, bringing experts in machine learning, fertility and infant neurodevelopment together in a shared mission.”

  • Neil Lawrence, DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning and Chair of ai@cam

“AI innovation is often perceived as being driven by business. While a wealth of exciting work is coming from leading AI companies, they are not going to solve society’s biggest challenges themselves. Interdisciplinary AI research is vital to bridge from technological advances to public value. AI-deas aims to build some of those bridges.”

  • Diane Coyle, and Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and Steering Group member