The University of Southampton

AI visionary awarded prestigious Chair in Emerging Technologies

Published: 7 October 2019

Professor Themis Prodromakis from the University of Southampton has been awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies to drive forward electronic systems that can sense, recognise, learn and reason like the human brain.

The Chair will focus on developing Lifelong Learning Embedded AI Hardware, using innovations in nanotechnology to create a new electronic fabric out of Memristive Technologies, that merges memory with computing power while maintaining extreme power efficiency.

Themis, Director of the Centre for Electronics Frontiers in the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, and Co-Director of the UKRI MINDS CDT , ,is one of eight world-leading engineers that will share a total of £22 million from the prestigious scheme.

The ten-year support provided to the Chairs will enable them to progress their pioneering ideas from basic science through to full deployment and commercialisation, with Themis pursuing the ambitious goal of embedding artificial intelligence (AI).

"As evidenced by the government’s recent,£1bn deal with industry for the development of cutting-edge AI within the UK, this programme comes at a very timely moment,” he says. “AI is destined to transform our society, affecting every aspect of our lives. However, a key bottleneck towards the proliferation of the technology is the lack of efficient hardware that will allow us to embed AI everywhere – well beyond the cloud’s reach.

“The specific needs of embedded AI solutions place traditional systems under excessive strain. At the same time, the need for intelligent assistants, connected sensor networks and smart surveillance are pushing the boundaries for more powerful and more efficient hardware for AI that can deal with modern society’s needs for real-time data processing and the ability to adapt continuously (lifelong learning) under resource-constraint environments.

“This award will enable me to consolidate my research in metal-oxide memristor technologies and provide sustained support for advancing this technology to neuromorphic application solutions, using analog electronic circuits to mimic neuro-biological architectures.” The eight areas of research funded through the new Chairs in Emerging Technologies reflect the UK’s wider technological priorities, with many of the projects directly aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Professor Susan Gourvenec, Deputy Director of the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute, has also been supported through the scheme this autumn to continue her pioneering work advancing intelligent and resilient ocean engineering.

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, says, “These highly prestigious awards by the Royal Academy of Engineering enable world-leading and visionary academics to address some of the key challenges humanity and our planet are facing. Science and engineering have significant contributions to make to solve these issues and the research at Southampton led by Professor Gourvenec and Professor Prodromakis are testament to the impact and the relevance of their innovative approach to these challenges.”

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