AI ‘doctor’s assistant’ among projects given £20m

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

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A computerised system that advises doctors on the best treatment to give a patient is among the artificial intelligence projects that have been awarded £20m by the British government.

The money will be shared between 15 AI projects being run at UK universities.

It's been done as part of the Turing fellowship scheme, named after maths genius and AI pioneer Alan Turing.

The projects help the UK meet some of today's most pressing challenges.

These include developing more effective ways of treating cancer and supporting efforts to tackle climate change.

AI describes software systems that make decisions usually requiring human expertise.

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It has the potential to transform the way we live, allowing tasks to be performed faster and more accurately than they are by people.

The doctor's assistant, or clinical colleague, is a project being led by Professor Aldo Faisal, of Imperial College London. It would be able to recommend medical interventions such as prescribing drugs or changing doses in a way that is understandable to decision makers, such as doctors.

This could help them make the best final decision on a course of action for a patient. This technology will use "reinforcement learning", a form of machine learning that trains AI to make decisions.

The aim is to relieve the pressures and workload on doctors and clinicians. But similar systems could be used in sectors such as aerospace or energy, where there is a need for decision-making support.

Another of the projects will aim to use AI to spot cancer before it can develop and spread in the body. It's being led by Prof Christopher Yau at the University of Manchester.

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