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Sean McGuire

Higher Education and Research EMEA, NVIDIA

Universities are investing in AI infrastructure to provide the research and workforce that will power change in every industry across the globe.

The UK and global universities are recognising the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI). Knowing it will have an enormous impact on all lives and every industry, educational institutions are enthusiastically investing in AI infrastructure.

Exploring AI possibilities

The University of Surrey opened the Surrey Institute for People-Centred AI last year. The University of Cambridge, UCL, Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham — to name a handful — are also using AI to enhance their research growth and build industry partnerships.

This is no surprise as universities are fully aware that the economic impact of AI will be breathtaking, says Sean McGuire, Higher Education and Research EMEA at AI computing company NVIDIA. “If AI can help recognise cancer that humans cannot see, how might it help pharma companies develop new drugs and improve patient outcomes?” he asks, “How might that help UK-based pharma compete globally?”

By centralising AI infrastructure, universities can reduce costs and ensure equitable access to all students and faculty staff.

AI won’t only be used to drive breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering and maths. Every discipline can and will tap into AI potential. “Industry and the commercial world are screaming out for AI skillsets,” says McGuire. “They want universities to equip them with an AI-ready workforce with new ideas and techniques to help create competitive advantage.” This will include AI’s ‘next big thing’ — NVIDIA Omniverse (an enabling technology of ‘the metaverse’): a platform that enables collaborative work on 3D projects in real-time.

Lower costs and more access

McGuire believes that all universities should invest in AI infrastructure (‘an AI supercomputer’). There’s a beautiful circularity to acquiring it, he points out, because AI helps break new research barriers, which in turn enables new research, which allows universities to ask for new funding.

Also, AI attracts global leading researchers and professors who attract global industries that want help in researching new products. By centralising AI infrastructure, universities can reduce costs and ensure equitable access to all students and faculty staff.

Expanding to attract investments

Making this a reality begins with passionate, committed leaders who have a top-down plan to attract funding. “The seed could be the right collection of leading researchers or joint research with leading industry names or an increasing donation from alumni or a foundation,” explains McGuire. “And, often, such a strategy will attract government research funding. Many universities can start small, build their AI centre, bring the knowledge together to learn from each other and help new users.”

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