The research project will seek to find new ways in which to bolster the efficiency and capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Rising research star receives prestigious fellowship

One of the new generation of rising research stars at the University of Exeter has received a prestigious national fellowship.

Dr Ke Li, from Exeter’s Computer Science department, has been given a £1.4 million Future Leaders Fellowship, given by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and announced today.

Dr Li is one of 41 Fellows funded through the initiative, which will help researchers and businesses to tackle some of the today’s most pressing global challenges. The research project will seek to find new ways in which to bolster the efficiency and capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Dr Li is setting out to develop a pioneering new technique to allow machine to learn and accumulate problem-solving knowledge on-the-fly. From that point, relevant knowledge is selectively transferred to make the new and unseen problem-solving process more efficient and more effective. At present, programmers have to develop algorithms to fix a specific issue on a case-by-case basis. This new technique will allow the AI to recall previous solutions, as well as use that “knowledge” to solve new problems as they develop.

Dr Li said: “This generous grant is very timely to provide me with a fantastic opportunity to concentrate on my chosen field of interest and make a significant contribution therein. Beyond the funding itself, perhaps more importantly, ample supports are available to build a strong research group working around me, to establish partnership with industries, to expand international collaboration networks, and to further develop essential soft skills to become a future leader such as project management, communication and public engagement.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport,said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships offer long-term support for the most talented researchers and innovators. Fellows will be encouraged to be adventurous in tackling tough and important research questions and opportunities for innovation.  

“The Fellowships offer opportunities to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry. These Fellowships will enable us to grow the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure that UK research and innovation continues to be world leading.” 

The Future Leaders Fellowships, supported by a £900 million investment fund, provide researchers and innovators from diverse backgrounds and career paths with the flexibility and time they need to make progress on truly challenging questions.  

The Fellows will tackle a broad spectrum of challenges and global issues and are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary and business-linked activities. 

Four or seven years of funding is provided and this stability, combined with commitments from host institutions for ongoing support after the Fellowship, gives researchers the time they need to make progress on truly challenging questions.   

The Future Leaders Fellowships are open to early career researchers in any field of research and innovation across UKRI’s remit. They can come from anywhere in the world to work at a UK institution or business.    

Researchers are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary and business-linked research. To foster the movement of people and ideas between the academic and business sectors and support excellence wherever it arises, the Fellowships encourage applicants who work with, or be based in, businesses.   

Announcing the awards today (May 7th  2019) Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: “From Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web, to Rosalind Franklin whose work was critical in understanding DNA, we have a rich history of talented individuals who have paved the way for ground-breaking research and discoveries in their fields.

“Our investment in these Future Leaders Fellows will enable the brightest and best of our scientists and researchers to work with leading lights in industry, to help their research move from the laboratory to the commercial market. This support to the next generation of scientists and researchers is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, and our commitment to raise R&D spend to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 will maintain the UK’s position as a world-leader in science and innovation and building on our historic legacy.”

Date: 7 May 2019

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