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How AI can support decarbonisation, including transport

New national initiatives are supporting AI products, skills and services to enable faster transport and energy decarbonisation

Juliana O'Rourke
18 December 2023
Source: Innovate UK BridgeAI / PSC Digital


The UK has set high expectations to become the home for net zero interventions and innovation, as well as the place for responsible artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and adoption. Together, these goals can work in tandem, enabling new AI products and services that can support high carbon emitting sectors to decarbonise – including transport and energy.

AI is already helping us to slash carbon emissions, unlock incredible advances in healthcare and even improve our productivity in the workplace. A recent Innovate UK BridgeAI report identified where, for example, the transport sector can more quickly benefit from AI.

To this end, several new initiatives have been launched in the UK:

The Responsible AI UK programme

The Responsible AI UK programme, led by the University of Southampton, has been awarded £31million by the government to fuel the UK’s ambitions to be a science and technology superpower, according to its creator Professor of Artificial Intelligence Gopal Ramchurn – one of the keynote speakers at Transport AI 2024, who also works closely with the Connected Places Catapult.

RAI UK brings together researchers from across the four nations of the UK to understand how we should shape the development of AI to benefit people, communities and society. 

Find out how transport can benefit from AI at our free Microsoft-led webinar on January 11, and at Transport AI on January 23 2024

RAI UK has already secured support from the Prime Minister’s office together with major private businesses and public sector bodies, including Google and the Met Police, to pioneer AI systems that respond to the most pressing needs of society.

It received the multimillion funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to fund large and small research and innovation projects across the country – some of which are already helping to tackle climate change challenges and find new cancer treatments.

Speakers from BridgeAI, Responsible AI UK, the Connected Places Catapult and the Alan Turing Institute will speak alonsgide business innvovators at Transport AI 2024 in Manchester: limited supported local authority places available

The Innovate UK BridgeAI ‘AI Skills for Business Competency Framework’

This is a vital resource aimed at empowering businesses and individuals to embrace AI and BridgeAI is asking for feedback on how to best shape the development of skills in the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence. The call for feedback closes 7th January 2024.

The framework supports a National AI Strategy commitment to “publish research into what skills are needed to enable employees to use AI in a business setting and identify how national skills provision can meet those needs”.

The document is the result of extensive stakeholder engagement and is the first step towards developing a full framework, which aims to support employers, employees, and training providers to identify upskilling routes and understand the competencies required to deliver value from AI.

Following a period of public consultation, we will work with a range of stakeholders across sectors to develop sector-specific case studies and resources and a full skills framework. These will enable businesses to understand their AI upskilling needs and training providers to develop relevant training solutions.

The Alan Turing Institute hosted a webinar on 7 December to present the draft version of ‘AI Skills for Business Guidance’, explain the consultation process and offer attendees a chance to participate in a live Q&A session. Catch up on the webinar recording now.

In a related project, The PSC were commissioned by Innovate UK to discover innovative use cases for AI through combining a series of innovation workshops with sector managers and further analysis and research. They came up with a catalogue containing 18 ideas across 4 priority sectors where the market is ripe for AI innovation – one of them transport – but the market hasn’t provided accessible solutions.

Artificial Intelligence Innovation for Decarbonisation’s Virtual Centre of Excellence (ADViCE)

Launched in December 2023, ADViCE is an essential intervention to accelerate the development of innovative AI technologies for decarbonisation applications, including transport and commercial nfrastructure, through the facilitation of collaboration and knowledge sharing between key stakeholders.

AI for Decarbonisation’s Virtual Centre of Excellence (ADViCE) is aimed at the development of innovative artificial intelligence technologies for decarbonisation applications to support the transition to net zero.

As part of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s (DESNZ) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, the Artificial Intelligence for Decarbonisation Programme has been set up to support and promote the adoption of Artificial Intelligence decarbonisation solutions for industries.

This launch of ADViCE saw the publication of two reports that will map the ecosystem of stakeholders and define the challenges faced within high carbon emitting sectors.

The Manchester Prize

The UK’s brightest minds in AI can now enter a new £1 million prize to showcase their innovative ideas to tackle some of the biggest challenges in society. For the first two years, the prize will focus on solutions to the challenges surrounding energy, environment and infrastructure.

The Manchester Prize, launching for the first time, forms part of the government’s dedication to placing the UK at the forefront of the AI revolution, supporting the best and brightest to develop the technologies of tomorrow.

The prize, delivered by Challenge Works, marks the beginning of a decade-long commitment from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, building on the £3.5 billion injection to make the UK a science and technology superpower announced in this year’s Spring Budget. 

This is delivering a £2.5 billion Quantum Strategy which will bring new investment, fast-growing businesses and high-quality jobs to the UK, cementing its reputation as a top location to commercialise quantum; and £1 billion to create the next generation of supercomputing and AI research to establish the UK as a science and technology superpower.

The Manchester Prize is an open competition, enabling a much broader community of innovators to enter, and allowing the UK to draw on talent across all sectors. The namesake of the Manchester Prize is the Manchester Baby, the world’s first computer with an electronic memory, which was built at the University of Manchester. 

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.

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. 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. AI is a critical tool in the fight to help us significantly cut emissions by 2030 as we work towards net zero by 2050, including by accelerating plans to decarbonise the energy sector and the wider economy.  

Manchester Prize finalists will  benefit from a range of non-financial support, including a package of free compute power to deliver their solutions. Furthermore, finalists will interact with key stakeholders, potential investors in and adopters of their technology in the public and private sectors, to share knowledge and encourage collaboration. 

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