AI for science and government (ASG)

A major integrated research programme with a goal to deploy AI and data science in priority areas to support the UK economy

The Alan Turing Institute was awarded £38.8 million over five years in 2018 through UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. AI for science and government (ASG) is delivered in partnership with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and in collaboration with a number of other research councils.

The biggest challenges that our societies face – from the COVID-19 pandemic to social and economic instability, overpopulation, and the climate emergency – involve complex interconnections between environmental, healthcare, social, economic, political and engineering systems. Addressing these grand challenges therefore requires both deep disciplinary expertise and ways to convene and combine expertise from different disciplines, strongly connected to problem owners.

Traditionally, this has been a substantial challenge. However, by providing the tools and methods to handle, combine and model large, disparate datasets, modern data science and AI tools have the potential to transform this process, with myriad benefits to society. The vision of ASG is to demonstrate – via a diverse range of activities organised and presented as an integrated whole – how AI and data science can be used to effectively address significant societal challenges and transform health, science, engineering, and government.

Themes, projects, events and associated programmes can be explored below.

EPSRC logo

New research initiatives

In consultation with the programme’s External Advisory Board, the Management Board agreed in July 2020 to fund several new and strategic research initiatives to build on research outcomes from the first two years of the ASG programme and address important issues for the UK government and public sector made more urgent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below provides a description of the new research initiatives and will be further detailed as the projects associated with them progress. 


Measuring the impact of policy interventions related to COVID-19 and building resilience against future shocks.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how vulnerable societies and governments are to shocks. This sensitivity is largely due to the propensity to design policy for narrow siloes relating to sectors and government departments, without adequate consideration of the interdependencies between them or proper appreciation of the interconnected nature of local and global societies. It has become evident that resilience in one policy area (e.g. health) can come at the cost of resilience in another (e.g. the economy). The overall aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of resilience in interconnected health, social, and economic systems and to use this understanding to identify robust policy measures.

Find out more about shocks and resilience


Digital twins are now well established in a number of domains and are increasingly being linked into ‘ecosystems of digital twins’ (EDTs), but foundational challenges remain. We seek to develop new methods, tools and underpinning foundations to build well-defined EDTs which are spread across spatial and temporal scales, addressing specific use cases in engineering, health, commerce, economics, urban infrastructure and community modelling, as identified by relevant commercial and government stakeholders.

Find about more about ecosystems of digital twins


Environmental models: Bridging the spatial scales, from surface sensors to satellite sensors.

Satellite sensors can now provide an amazing level of detail of the Earth surface, yet with sparse and imperfect ground-truth sensors to validate them, and due to their relatively short record (a few decades) their usefulness when used on their own is somewhat limited. To make new leaps in understanding environmental change and to improve prediction we must find intelligent ways to combine satellite data with surface sensors and the output from physics-based environmental simulators (e.g., climate models). To bridge these spatial scales and various modalities we are creating a team of scientists and engineers to build and deploy toolkits driven by real-world case studies. This effort will create the foundations for building UK research capacity in developing Digital Twins of the natural environment.

The impact of climate change on agriculture.

Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change, with important socio-economic implications for food sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions. We can begin to model this by bringing together data from plant science, hydrology, soil science, insect population dynamics, economics, consumer behaviour and climate models. In this way we will contribute to the sustained development of a national crop modelling platform which will continue to develop at scale beyond the duration of this particular project.

Find out more about environment and sustainability

AI for science

This theme is aligned with the data science for science and humanities programme.

Researchers at The Alan Turing Institute, Science Technology Facilities Council and their collaborators, have access to the PEARL computing service for research falling under this theme. Click here for more information.