Ulster University AI Expert Helps People to Communicate Following Brain Injuries as part of £20m UK Government Investment in AI

27 November 2020

Ulster University AI Expert Helps People to Communicate Following Brain Injuries as part of £20m UK Government Investment in AI
Ulster University AI Expert Helps People to Communicate Following Brain Injuries as part of £20m UK Government Investment in AI

A leading Ulster University researcher will develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that could help people to communicate following serious brain injuries, thanks to a £20million government investment announced today.

Professor Damien Coyle of Ulster University’s Magee campus has been awarded the prestigious Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship. The Fellowships will give fifteen of the UK’s top AI researchers the resources to work with industry to bring their innovations to the real world.

Professor Coyle of the Intelligent Systems Research Laboratory aims to develop AI technology that will play a crucial role in new forms of wearable neuro-technologies. Enabling movement-independent communication through this brain-computer interface could help those who are unable to communicate following a serious injury or illness. Professor Coyle is leading a national trial in partnership with 17 hospitals to evaluate AI-enabled neurotechnology for consciousness assessment in prolonged disorders of consciousness following severe brain injury.

Professor Damien Coyle who is currently Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) at Ulster University’s Magee campus, said:

“Everyone’s brain is different and many factors influence brain states so brainwaves are extremely complex and change and evolve from minute to minute and day to day. This presents an excellent challenge for AI in detecting specific brains states.

The AI R&D planned for this fellowship will be thoroughly trialled not only in the lab but also with end-users of the technology – patients and clinicians who can really benefit. The AI will be deployed in wearables developed in partnership with NeuroCONCISE Ltd, an Ulster University spinout.

New AI developed for neurotechnology during the fellowship will be translated across other sectors and industry led-data analytics challenges so the fellowship will impact widely within the city and region, Northern Ireland, the UK and beyond.”

The ISRC, through the Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL) will feature in the Derry and Strabane City Deal. Its objective is to help NI industry across a broad range of sectors from health to financial technology to become world-leading in their use of Artificial Intelligence. The ISRC is already home to the Dr George Moore Chair in Data Analytics, a world-class academic position made possible with the philanthropic support of Mrs Angela Moore. This funding injection is another endorsement of Derry - Londonderry as a place where AI and innovation thrives.

Named after British AI pioneer Alan Turing, the £20 million fellowship scheme will be delivered by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute and Office for Artificial intelligence.

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway said:

“The UK is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and we therefore have a duty to equip the next generation of Alan Turings, like Ulster University’s Professor Damien Coyle, with the tools that will keep the UK at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.

Northern Ireland is a hotbed for innovation and the inspiring AI project we are backing today could assist those who have experienced a serious illness or injury to communicate, transforming how they live, while cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in AI and data.”

Digital Minister, Caroline Dinenage, said:

"The UK is a nation of innovators and this government investment will help our talented academics use cutting-edge technology to improve people's daily lives - from delivering better disease diagnosis to managing our energy needs."

The fellowships forms part of a major government investment in AI skills and research, including sixteen Centres for Doctoral Training in AI and conversion courses to train the next generation of AI experts, announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in October 2019.

It follows the publication of the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap in June this year, which committed to investing in ground breaking research and supporting the UK’s risk takers to scale up their innovations.


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