From climate to cancer: the technologies demonstrating AI's inspiring upside

3 November 2023

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UCLB’s Associate Director (Physical Sciences & Engineering) Marina Santilli outlines the spinouts demonstrating AI’s powerful impact.

Whilst the recently concluded AI Safety Summit focused on identifying and proposing strategies for addressing the complex challenges of a safe framework for the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence in all its guises, it is worth bearing in mind the benefits that AI is already bringing to society. As with the introduction of all new technologies, risk and reward work hand in hand and need to be considered together – there is no question that the potential for significant reward, particularly in areas such as healthcare and climate, is huge.

Recent UCLB spinouts with AI in the core of their product and positive societal benefit at the heart of their mission include the following inspirational companies:

Odin Vision (now acquired by Olympus) spun out of research at the UCL Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional Surgical Sciences and the department of Computer Science, where researchers trained an AI model to detect and characterise polyps in the gastro-intestinal tract. Their product, CADDIE, is now widely used by clinicians to assist in the detection of abnormal polyps during an endoscopy procedure, which may indicate the presence of early stage colorectal cancer.

Satalia, a spinout from the Department of Computer Science, acquired by the global WPP group in 2021, uses AI to solve some of industry’s most complex optimisation challenges. For example they have helped companies such as Tesco reduce fuel consumption by planning more efficient delivery routes. Satalia is thought-leader in AI and a strongly purpose-driven company, looking to address some of society’s biggest challenges, including the impact and opportunities offered by technology, on the future of work.

Carbon Re is an exciting spinout from UCL’s Energy Institute, which has set itself the goal of enabling the reduction of industrial carbon emissions by gigatonnes every year. Its first product Delta Zero Cement targets the most energy intensive of all manufacturing industries: cement production is responsible for a greater share of carbon emissions than deforestation, global shipping and aviation combined. By leveraging deep learning technology, the digital twin modelling approach calculates the optimum operating parameters of a cement manufacturing plant, thus significantly reducing its fuel requirements and carbon emissions, as well as reducing fuel costs.

Other spinouts are working on the challenges of unlocking the intrinsic knowledge and patterns embedded within valuable datasets that are crucial to the development of many AI models, in a manner that properly and securely respects the data source and subjects. Hazy’s technology for example, creates synthetic datasets with differential privacy such that that it has identical statistical properties to the original dataset but contains no personal identifiable information.

With many more exciting and potentially transformational AI-first spinouts in the UCLB pipeline, we will look forward to sharing many more stories of positive societal impact in the coming months and years. We also look forward to the development of the safety frameworks and policies discussed at this week’s summit, such that all our spinouts can have appropriate guidelines, measures and reporting infrastructure against which they can continue to develop whilst embedding the latest research in this area, in order to be able to confidently label themselves as Responsible AI businesses.

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