Oxford joins Schmidt Futures’ $148 million global initiative to accelerate use of AI in scientific research

Tuesday 25th Oct 2022, 12.02pm

The Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, a programme of Schmidt Futures, aims to accelerate the next scientific revolution by supporting talented postdoctoral researchers to apply AI techniques across the natural sciences, engineering and mathematical sciences.

The new initiative adds to Schmidt Futures’ existing philanthropic efforts to support the development and application of AI in innovative ways. It will initially support around 160 fellows per year, across the nine partner universities, for up to six years, with plans for future expansion to more countries and continents.

New methods in advanced computing and AI are increasingly contributing to revolutionary tools in scientific research and discovery, but the global adoption of AI in STEM disciplines is unevenly distributed and inconsistent. With one of Europe’s largest academic groupings of AI expertise, Oxford is ideally placed to capitalise on the promise of AI to accelerate scientific progress in a wide range of fields, such as developing new materials for clean energy applications, controlling large-scale quantum computers, or analysing the huge datasets generated by particle accelerators.

Up to 20 fellows will be selected to join the programme at Oxford each year, working within research groups embedded in the academic departments of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division. Each will receive tailored training in both core and advanced AI topics, delivered by Oxford’s world-leading AI researchers and research software engineers, and have the chance to learn about the social and ethical implications of AI. They will also benefit from wider professional development opportunities as part of a global network of AI-trained scientists.

In addition, the postdoctoral researchers supported by the programme at Oxford will become associate research fellows of Reuben College, home to a thriving cross-disciplinary community of researchers, including those working on applications ranging from finance and healthcare to the environment, robotics and philosophy of the mind.

Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures, said: ‘Scientific innovation today is too often defined by new use cases for existing technologies or refining previous advancements, rather than the creation of entirely new fields of discovery. This is why we need to accelerate the next global scientific revolution – by supporting broad and deep incorporation of AI techniques into scientific and engineering research.’

Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, said: ‘AI is already revolutionary but it is not yet as accessible, equitable or interdisciplinary as it needs to be. By supporting postdoctoral candidates around the world in fields beyond computer science, we hope to create a community that can develop and improve this technology and find novel ways to apply it in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.’

Professor Sam Howison, Head of Division for the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences, said: ‘The University of Oxford is at the frontier of the AI revolution. This generous gift from Schmidt Futures will help us to make AI part of the toolbox for practising scientists across the mathematical, physical and life sciences. It will support six cohorts of fellows, whose research in these fields will be underpinned by unprecedented support through a bespoke AI training programme and their connection with Reuben College, which is dedicated to research that addresses 21st century challenges such as AI and Machine Learning.’ 

Find out more here.