As the region works towards the Derry & Strabane City Deal which will see Derry - Londonderry becoming a Hub for AI and Data Analytics, academic and industry researchers gathered (virtually and in person) at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) at Ulster University’s Magee campus this Autumn for the first ever ‘ISRC-CN3 Autumn School’.
The “CN3” represents Computational Neuroscience, Neurotechnology and Neuro-inspired artificial intelligence (AI). This reflects the rapid advancements in brain sciences and neuro-inspired AI that not only led to a deeper understanding of the brain, but also to the application of powerful AI and machine-learning algorithms that affect our everyday lives in areas ranging from health (e.g. neurological disorders) to industry, for example in the ICT field which is a key sector in Derry – Londonderry.
In a reflection of the interest in the computational neuroscience and AI space; 140 people from 18 different countries (from Ireland to Iran) and 21 academic institutions took part in a week-long virtual School featuring local and international speakers. The ISRC Autumn School has been praised by industry and academia alike.
Kathryn Harkin, Senior Manager, Artificial Intelligence Center Of Excellence (AI-COE) at Allstate Northern Ireland said:
“We were delighted to sponsor the first ISRC Autumn School as it brought together a global community of academic researchers and industry partners to learn about the latest developments in computational neuroscience and AI. At Allstate NI, our staff value immersing themselves in the exciting research which is taking place at Ulster University because this research serves as a catalyst for disruption and growth for Allstate. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Ulster University as we work together towards developing the region’s global reputation as a site of excellence for AI and Data Analytics through the Derry & Strabane City Deal investment.”
The event sponsored by industry partners Seagate, Allstate Northern Ireland, Kainos, the ISRC spin out company, NeuroCONCISE, and the international IEEE society (the IEEE Brain and IEEE Computational Intelligence Society UK & Ireland Chapter) represents a commitment to building partnerships between academia and business to encourage innovation throughout the region and beyond.
The ISRC & Derry City Deal
The creation of a specialised offering such as this in Derry - Londonderry and the positive feedback that flowed from industry and academia, is a strong illustration of the potential which will be harnessed and expanded upon for the good of industry and the skills development as part of the Derry & Strabane City Deal.
The ISRC represents one of the largest clusters of computational neuroscientists and neuro-inspired AI researchers in the island of Ireland. It is the launch-pad for two Ulster University City Deal projects under the Innovation pillar:
- Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL): A cutting-edge research centre to help NI businesses become world-leading in their use of Artificial Intelligence.
- Centre for Industrial Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA): Supporting industry to embrace the unprecedented opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Training the next generation of researchers
The ISRC-CN3 Autumn School was developed to train the next generation of researchers in academia and industry in developments in computational neuroscience, neural data science, neurotechnology and neuro-inspired AI.
Leading US scientist, and Derry native, Professor J.A. Scott Kelso of Florida Atlantic University, reflected on Ulster University’s leadership in this field:
"The age-old fissure between brain-like intelligence and artificial intelligence is narrowing. The reason is not only technological advances in neuroscience and computing, but also that the problem has captured the imagination of a new generation of talented young scientists and engineers. From all walks of life. The key to progress is that disciplines like mathematics, computer science, biology and psychology are teaching and learning from each other… Since its inception, the ISRC in Derry is at the forefront of this research and pedagogical approach, not only in the UK and the island of Ireland, but world-wide. Their latest initiative, a 5-day Autumn School led by experts in their fields was attended by people from all over the world.”
Prof. J.A. Scott Kelso is Glenwood and Martha Creech Chair in Science, Professor of Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, and Professor of Psychology, Biological Sciences and Biomedical Science, at Florida Atlantic University.
Professor Simon Kelly, Associate Professor at University College Dublin, who was an external speaker on this year’s programme said:
“This Autumn School fills a vital gap in graduate education on the island of Ireland in computational neuroscience and its overlap with artificial intelligence, and its world-class nature is attested by the global mix of attendees from various educational backgrounds as well as the superb content itself. It provides an intensive and hands-on introduction to key principles and concepts in this growing area of science and engineering that provides a solid foundation in only one week. I truly hope it will become a regular fixture.”
There are plans for another Autumn School in 2022 and those interested in getting involved are invited to register their interest early by emailing KongFatt Wong-Lin, Reader at the Intelligent Systems Research Centre at email@example.com.