The Alan Turing Institute to work with Japan on collaborative research in artificial intelligence and robotics

Thursday 10 Jan 2019

Research area

The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, will collaborate with three major Japanese research institutes on artificial intelligence and robotics research.

The Institute has initiated agreements with AIST (the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), one of the largest research institutes in Japan focusing on bridging the gap between research ideas and commercialisation, NII (National Institute of Informatics), an inter-university academic research institute working to advance research and development in informatics-related fields and the RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project, funded by the Japanese government to advance AI technologies and explore their ethical, legal and social impact.

The Turing's collaborative agreements with Japan are part of a wider UK government announcement made today relating to new scientific collaborations between the two countries in the fields of robotics, ethical use of data and medical research.

Joint activities between the Turing and the three organisations will include researcher exchange placements, developing joint proposals for research projects and spearheading networking and knowledge exchange activities, with workshops planned later in 2019 to identify the first collaborative projects.

Sethu Vijayakumar, Programme Co-Director for Artificial Intelligence at The Alan Turing Institute, who specialises in machine learning for robotics, explains the scientific significance of the new collaborations:

“Japan is renowned for its world-leading work in robotics, and the UK, given its established excellence in artificial intelligence research, is well-placed to collaborate and bring together these two exciting research communities.

“Through this initiative, we will address several machine learning and data science challenges arising from and towards deployment of robotics and autonomous systems and AI technologies for solving socially relevant problems across domains. Focus on ensuring ethical, safe, verifiable and secure systems will form a key backbone, areas which Turing scientists provide proven leadership.”

Sethu Vijayakumar Programme Co-Director for AI at The Alan Turing Institute
Sethu Vijayakumar Programme Co-Director for AI at The Alan Turing Institute and specialist in machine learning for robotics.

The collaboration announcement with Japan is part of a wider programme of international engagement getting underway at the Turing, and follows engagement with countries including France, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S, Finland and Singapore.


For more information about the Turing’s work in AI and robotics, visit our programme page and read our blog interview with Sethu Vijayakumar.

About AIST

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), one of the largest public research organisations in Japan, focuses on the creation and practical realisation of technologies useful to Japanese industry and society, and on “bridging” the gap between innovative technological seeds and commercialisation.

AIST has about 2000 researchers doing research and development at 10 research bases across the country. AIST is also actively building a global network by, for example, signing memorandums of understanding for comprehensive research cooperation with 30 major research institutes around the world.

About NII

As Japan's only general academic inter-university research institution seeking to create future value in the new discipline of informatics, the National Institute of Informatics (NII) is dedicated to advance integrated research and development activities in information-related fields, including networking, software, and content. These activities range from theoretical and methodological work through applications. NII collaborates with more than 100 research institutes and universities across the world, including now The Alan Turing Institute.


The RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (RIKEN-AIP) was launched in April 2016 and aims to achieve scientific breakthrough and to contribute to the welfare of society and humanity through developing innovative technologies. RIKEN-AIP also conducts research on ethical, legal and social issues caused by the spread of AI technology and develop human resources.


Related funding opportunities

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society (RISTEX) of Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), are pleased to announce a joint call for proposals exploring the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies on society and the economy. The call is now open and the deadline for applications is 17 July 2019. Successful awards will be announced in November 2019 and will be expected to begin in January 2020.

The total UK budget for this call is £2 million. UK applicants may request between £360,000-£500,000 (100% fEC) per project. If successful, UKRI will meet 80% of the full economic costs and the host institution is expected to support the remaining 20%. The total Japanese budget for this call is ¥180m. Japanese applicants may request up to ¥30m per project. Together we expect to fund between five and seven joint proposals for a period of three years. 

Please note that proposals will be funded under this call subject to the UK funding being secured from the Fund for International Collaboration.