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The University of Cambridge will establish a DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning, thanks to a benefaction from the world-leading British AI company.

The new chair, which will based at Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, will build on the University’s strengths in computer science and engineering and will be a focus point for the wide range of AI-related research taking place across the University. Cambridge researchers are designing systems that are cybersecure, model human reasoning, interact in affective ways with us, uniquely identify us by our face and give insights into our biological makeup.

The first DeepMind Chair is expected to take up their position in October 2019, following an international search by the department. The chair will have full academic freedom to pursue research in the field of machine learning.

Cambridge has a long tradition of excellence in computer science and is home to the largest technology cluster in Europe. The DeepMind Chair will build on this tradition by enhancing Cambridge’s capacity in AI-related research, and will contribute to the UK’s standing as a global hub in this rapidly-growing area.

The gift is part of a wider DeepMind programme to encourage uptake of machine learning, to support the wider academic ecosystem. As part of these efforts, DeepMind will give a donation to support four Master’s students from underrepresented groups wishing to study machine learning and computer science at Cambridge. More information will be made available this coming autumn, for scholarships beginning in the 2019 academic year.

Demis Hassabis, DeepMind’s co-founder and CEO, completed his undergraduate degree in computer science at Queens’ College, Cambridge and received his PhD from UCL, while numerous other employees continue to give back to Cambridge through teaching and mentorship.

“I have many happy memories from my time as an undergraduate at Cambridge, so it’s now a real honour for DeepMind to be able to contribute back to the Department of Computer Science and Technology and support others through their studies,” said Hassabis. “My hope is that the DeepMind Chair in Machine Learning will help extend Cambridge’s already world-leading teaching and research capacities, and support further scientific breakthroughs towards the development of safe and ethical AI.”

“This gift will not only enhance Cambridge’s strengths in the field of AI research, but will benefit the UK more broadly, as AI has such transformative potential in so many aspects of our lives,” said Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. “Our researchers are not only developing these new technologies, but are working to ensure that they benefit humanity. This new Professorship is an important piece of that puzzle.”

“This new Professorship will build on our existing strengths and become an important focus for research and teaching in applied AI,” said Professor Ann Copestake, Head of the Department of Computer Science and Technology. “The interdisciplinary environment in the University will help the development of ethical and sustainable AI-based solutions to complex social, economic and environmental challenges.”

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James MP said: “The UK already has a global standing in AI and this new post at Cambridge is another string to our bow. Through our Industrial Strategy and £1bn AI sector deal, we are creating the right environment for the technology to be developed in the UK. I welcome any initiative which will help us achieve our aim of making sure it improves our economy and society.”