UK-Japan robotics and AI workshops produce promising collaborations in health, transport and smart city infrastructure

LONDON—The first formal collaboration between the UK and Japan in the fields of robotics, AI and the ethical use of data, to emerge since the UK government’s announcement earlier this year, is being held today (19 September 2019) at The Alan Turing Institute. The aim of the workshop is to help to break down barriers faced by both nations’ innovative businesses.

Both the UK and Japanese centres of excellence in AI and data science are coming together to share solutions on using large amounts of data legally, ethically and safely, while making fundamental breakthroughs in fast, scalable, federated deployment of algorithms.

Some key areas of impact that have been identified include sustaining the health of aging populations, infrastructure inspection repair and maintenance in extreme environments, mitigating climate change, and managing transport systems within smart cities.

The Japanese institutions involved include AIST, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, NII, Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, and RIKEN AIP, The RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project.

Over 130 registered participants with over 40 leading academic researchers from Japan and around 30 industry representatives from Japan and the UK are taking part in the three-day effort. The workshop culminates with a networking event at the Japanese Embassy in London hosted by the Japanese Ambassador to the UK.

This London event directly follows two days of productive scientific and research-based workshops at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics’ Bayes Centre. These workshops have identified key research white spaces, backed by complementary world leading expertise from Japan and UK, at time scales ranging from intern-led projects for 3-6 months, high TRL level one-to-two year projects that will be put to industry today for co-funding as well as academic low-TRL level game-changers that will need to be backed by joint government initiatives.

Follow today’s events in London with #UKJapanAI on social media.

Group photograph of the UK-Japan robotics and AI research collaboration workshop in Edinburgh.
Group photograph of the UK-Japan robotics and AI research collaboration workshop in Edinburgh.

Leading the workshops is Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, The Alan Turing Institute’s Programme Co-Director for AI and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, who specialises in machine learning for robotics. He commented:

“We are very excited about the prospect of these newly forged collaborations, particularly given their direct relevance in tackling some of our biggest grand challenges with demographics and infrastructure.

Japan brings world-leading robotics talent to the table and the Turing is proud to share its established excellence in machine learning and AI research as well as a track record of tackling real world problems with cutting-edge technology. Both communities are committed to ethical, safe, verifiable and secure systems, and Turing scientists have proven leadership in this space.”

Masashi Sugiyama, Director of RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project, said:

“RIKEN and the Turing share many parallel ambitions in bringing together diverse disciplines and engaging in world-leading research activities. It is wonderful to come together now with other leading Japanese institutes such as AIST and NII to explore the possibilities of AI and robotics, addressing topics like machine learning, optimisation and fairness, with potential applications in real-world robotics.

I am energised by our work on core fundamental progress in science with likeminded individuals from the UK. This week's workshops have covered much ground as we continue on our path towards joint innovation.”

Dr Rannia Leontaridi  OBE, FRSA - Director, BEIS Business Growth & Office for Artificial Intelligence, added:

"Innovation and a passion for knowledge are the common threads that bind the UK and Japan. 

I am thrilled, that in the same week our recently established Robotics Growth Partnership held its first workshop with leading figures from UK academia and industry, our best researchers are joining forces to tackle the most pressing issues facing communities around the globe. By sharing each other’s learning, we will not only place our two countries at the cutting edge of the global smart robotics revolution, but will also improve people’s lives as we do so. 

These workshops are the embodiment of both our Grand Challenges and Japan’s Society 5.0."


  1. For more information about the Turing’s work in AI and robotics, visit our programme page and read our blog interview with Sethu Vijayakumar.
  2. 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 2,000 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.
  3. 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.
  4. About RIKEN AIP: 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.