Nearly a year has passed since we had to cancel the first ever AI UK conference because of the COVID-19 crisis. At The Alan Turing Institute, we’d spent a year planning the event, lining up the very best in UK AI talent, so the decision was made with heavy hearts.

But we are delighted to be able to announce the 2021 AI UK conference, taking place on 23-24 March 2021. The event will be virtual, but the idea remains the same: to showcase the UK’s most exciting and pioneering research in the science and applications of AI and machine learning.

For all the tremendous difficulties of the past year, AI research has continued to develop apace, and its emerging applications have continued to astound us. In June 2020, we saw the release of GPT-3, a language model from the OpenAI research lab that uses deep learning to generate human-like text that gives even the most sceptical of AI pundits pause for thought. In October, autonomous car company Waymo announced that it was opening its fully driverless taxi service to the public. And in November, DeepMind’s AlphaFold system made huge progress on protein folding – one of the most important practical problems in biology.

The pandemic itself has seen a flurry of work by AI researchers and data scientists, including a host of projects at the Turing. And the crisis has essentially made us all data scientists, scrambling to make sense of every day’s mass of statistics and news reports as we try to figure out what they mean for our families and communities.

AI UK will reflect on the role that AI has played in the scientific response to the pandemic. It will explore the new ideas and directions that have emerged in AI, and how these will shape our post-pandemic world.

The world today is unimaginably different to the world in which we planned last year’s event. But AI remains now, as it did before the pandemic, the most exciting and important area of contemporary science. AI UK will be an essential event for understanding the current state of the UK’s AI research, and where it will be heading over the next decade.