Cambridge quartet steer £76m technology initiatives for UK – Business Weekly


Arm, Microsoft, Toshiba Europe and the University of Cambridge are steering trailblazing digital initiatives in £76 million projects designed to enhance AI, cyber security and healthcare capability to boost the global performance of UK businesses.

The Cambridge quartet have been hand-picked by Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom and Digital Minister Matt Warman for one of the most critical performance enhancement initiatives ever undertaken in the UK.

In the viper pit of cyber security, the Government is partnering with super chip architect Arm to develop new chip technologies that are more resistant to cyber threats; this is the next phase of the Government’s ‘Digital Security by Design initiative’, also backed by Google and Microsoft.

Arm’s role will span a five-year period and involve software companies, tools developers and leading academic institutions – including Cambridge University and Edinburgh University; industry and academia will have the opportunity to test the new technology through a prototype called the ‘Morello Board’.

The average cost of a cyber-attack on a business – where a breach has resulted in loss of data or assets – has increased by more than £1,000 since 2018 to £4,180.

While doing the basics, such as having strong passwords and updating software regularly are the best defence for homes and businesses, having innovative hardware and systems solutions are critical to defend advanced technology and our defence systems.

This project has the potential to prevent hackers from remotely taking control of computer systems as well as targeting cyber-attacks and breaches, meaning more businesses providing online services are better protected. It will also create new business opportunities and help boost productivity.

Andrea Leadsom said: “Cyber-attacks can have a particularly nasty impact on businesses, from costing them thousands of pounds in essential revenue to reputational harm.

“Cyber-criminals operate in the shadows, with the severity, scale and complexity of breaches constantly evolving. It’s critical that we are ahead of the game and developing new technologies and methods to confront future threats, supporting our businesses and giving them peace of mind to deliver their products and services safely.

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“Investing in our world-leading researchers and businesses to develop better defence systems makes good business and security sense.”

A further project, backed by £18 million government investment, through the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), will tackle some of the dangers of the online world from privacy abuses and wrongful use of data like disinformation and online fraud.

The initiative will help provide solutions to some of the issues identified in the government’s Online Harms white paper, which sets out plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
The project will help understand what businesses and individuals need to reduce the harm they are exposed to by using online platforms and will aim to develop more trustworthy technology.

This will help to prevent incidents of online fraud, phishing emails, impersonating organisations online and viruses or other malware like ransomware, which cost the UK economy millions of pounds in lost productivity.

Arm chief architect and Fellow Richard Grisenthwaite said: “Achieving truly robust security for a world of a trillion connected devices requires a radical shift in how technology companies approach cyber-threats. Research into new ways of building inherently more cyber-resilient chip platforms is critical.

“Our first step is to create prototype hardware, the Morello Board, as a real-world test platform for prototype architecture developed by Arm that uses the University of Cambridge’s CHERI protection model.

“It will enable industry and academic partners to assess the security benefits of foundational new technologies we’re making significant investments in.”

The Government is also supporting a new ‘Prosperity Partnership’ between Toshiba Research Europe, University of Bristol and GCHQ to develop more resilient wireless networks through new techniques to detect future threats and mitigate their effects – including financial extortion, terrorism and damaging or destroying established systems.

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The pioneering project between Toshiba Research Europe and the University of Bristol, is 1 of six new collaborations announced by the government today, with £40 million government, industry and university investment into Prosperity Partnerships that aim to transform the way people live, work and travel.

Delivered by UKRI, major industry leaders, including Jaguar Land Rover, Eli Lilly and Company, Toshiba Research Europe, Microsoft, M Squared Lasers, Siemens and Nikon will team up with world-renowned universities and academics to help develop the technologies of the future.

A five-year partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge aims to improve and enhance Artificial Intelligence through simplifying development and reducing errors, helping to transform sectors including healthcare and gaming, as well as improve business productivity. 

The project has the potential to help designers build better gaming experiences, improve how staff communicate and work in businesses around the world, and reduce healthcare delays for patients.

The Microsoft-Cambridge University led partnership – ‘Machine Learning for Tomorrow: Efficient, Flexible, Robust and Automated’ – acknowledges the growing power and implantation of the best AI solutions, especially in sectors such as healthcare.

This alliance aims to find efficiencies in using data, ways to simplify model development, as well as reduce errors and bias in real-world applications. It will do this by improving the fundamental mathematical and computational foundations of AI.

Building on the deep collaborative academic-industry partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, the partners aim to realise the potential of artificial intelligence to enhance the human experience and to nurture the next generation of AI researchers and talent. Investment in research and innovation is vital in helping design trustworthy and responsive AI.

The project has the potential to reduce healthcare delays for patients, improve how staff communicate and work in businesses around the world, and help designers build better gaming experiences. 

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Dr Richard Turner, team lead and Reader in Machine Learning from the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said: “AI is making huge progress in real-world applications, from speech translation to medical imaging. 

“While we know that AI has the potential to transform sectors from healthcare to gaming, as well as improve overall business productivity, we must not forget we are still in the early stages of its development.

“Building on the deep collaborative academic-industry partnership between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, we aim to realise the potential of AI to enhance the human experience and to nurture the next generation of AI researchers and talent. Investment in basic research and innovation is vital in helping design trustworthy and responsive AI.”

In October 2018, it was announced that the University was joining with Microsoft to help tackle the problem of ‘brain drain’ in AI and machine learning research. As part of the Microsoft Research – Cambridge University Machine Learning Initiative, Microsoft is helping to increase AI and machine learning research capacity and capability at Cambridge.

Chris Bishop, Technical Fellow and Laboratory Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, wrote at the time: “Through this initiative, we are bolstering the University of Cambridge’s AI research capacity and capability by supporting visiting researchers, postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and interns from the UK and abroad, thereby increasing the flow of people and ideas between the Microsoft Cambridge lab and the University.

“Staff at the University of Cambridge are already lecturing in the Microsoft AI Residency Program and contributing to major industry-led projects. Microsoft researchers teach at the university and supervise projects at all levels, and this initiative will further increase that exchange of knowledge.”

• PHOTOGRAPH: Chris Bishop, Technical Fellow and Laboratory Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Picture courtesy – MSRCambridge



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