The links between academia and business are growing in the field of AI
Richard Allmendinger has joined the advisory board of the North's first dedicated AI fund.
Richard Allmendinger has been working in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) long before it ever became fashionable.
Indeed, the Professor of Applied Artificial Intelligence has been developing and customising a broad range of AI algorithms to tackle real world problems for more than a decade.
As he recalls: "Initially I worked with big biopharma companies and suppliers of equipment to manufacture drugs, but when I joined AMBS in 2015 I started to branch out further, working with the NHS to come up with better reimbursement schemes using advanced clustering algorithms. I have also worked in the defence and computing industries on reinforcement learning methods, as well as in more niche areas such as forensics, sport and music, sectors which you would not automatically associate with AI."
His broad sector knowledge was just one of the reasons why Professor Allmendinger recently joined the advisory board of the North’s first dedicated AI fund. The Enterprise Investment Scheme fund, run by River Capital, focuses on early-stage, high growth AI, machine learning and data science investment opportunities across the north of the UK.
The firm says data science SMEs across the region are underserved by venture capital, despite it containing multiple centres of AI excellence.
As Professor Allmendinger says: "This exciting new fund will tap into the incredible opportunities for growth that we see today in AI companies across this region. The potential of AI to transform businesses is only now beginning to be truly recognised by the wider world, and both AMBS and The University of Manchester have a major role to play in helping to advance the industry here in the North West."
We have an astonishing 1,700 researchers working across 30 disciplines in the digital space at The University of Manchester. So if there is something I don’t know the answer to, I’m pretty sure there is someone else in the University who can help.
Professor Allmendinger’s role will specifically involve carrying out due diligence into the algorithms being used or explored by the companies being targeted for investment.
"My particular role is to look at the AI set up of these companies, assessing the algorithms they are using and whether they are being used correctly, and also whether they have the correct infrastructure to scale up. My role is also about looking at the data that is coming in, understanding what data is being collected, and then how it is collected. For instance, are there any sensitivity issues with the data or any bias issues? Is there scope for improvement?
"I also want to know how employees are interacting with AI algorithms. What decisions are being made using AI and how are those decisions made? At the end of the day AI is a decision support tool and it is the human who has to make a decision as to whether they trust the AI or not. The AI model is also only as good as the data you give it to train so businesses need to make a judgement. Is this a tool I can use, what can I use it for, and what are the risks?"
He will also work closely with colleagues across The University of Manchester. "We have an astonishing 1,700 researchers working across 30 disciplines in the digital space at The University of Manchester. That is a massive pool of talent. So if there is something I don’t know the answer to I’m pretty sure there is someone else in the University who can help.” He will also work with business engagement colleagues on the potential for matching the targeted business with wider university knowledge exchange and funding programmes.
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River Capital is looking to invest in around 15 AI driven businesses over the next five years, with investments ranging from £500,000 to £2 million.
It expects to invest in two broad categories of AI SMEs. The first comprises businesses seeking capital to accelerate their growth or build out their AI platforms. The second includes companies with untapped data sets which wish to use AI to create data IP and to go on an AI, machine learning or data science journey.
River Capital Investment Director David Walters said: “Our new fund is driven by the superpower of data and we intend to use that power both to add value to AI businesses and to deliver great returns to investors.
"The AI, machine learning and data science industry presents fantastic investment opportunities and this fund is ideally positioned both to support and benefit from the profound impact on how business is done, and the widespread adoption of these technologies. Given his huge technical knowledge of the industry we are delighted that Richard has joined our advisory board and look forward to working with him.”
Rachel Kenyon, Business Engagement Manager at The University of Manchester, added: "This partnership is an excellent opportunity for The University of Manchester to build early-stage relationships with AI SMEs in the region and support their development."
Richard Allmendinger is a Professor of Applied Artificial Intelligence and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute.