A dry land
The government revealed the potential for AI technology to reduce UK's carbon footprints. ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP

In a move to reshape the future of sustainable industries, the UK government, on Tuesday, August 15, revealed a substantial multi-million-pound investment into Artificial intelligence (AI).

This strategic investment is expected to create a paradigm shift in the way various sectors approach the reduction of carbon emissions.

As part of this visionary initiative, a dozen pioneering green AI projects have been selected to receive £1 million each. These projects, spanning different domains, are set to help decarbonise and increase renewable energy generation, thereby contributing to the country's ambitious net zero objectives by 2050.

The spectrum of these ingenious plans encompasses a wide array of innovations. Among the standout projects are enhancements in solar energy utilisation through AI-driven prediction models that optimise electricity generation for the grid. Furthermore, AI robots, intricately designed to monitor crop and soil health, are set to revolutionise the dairy farming sector by driving efficient decarbonisation measures.

The government revealed the potential for AI technology to actually reduce its carbon footprints. The investment is centred around developing AI technology that emulates the human brain's functionality, leading to reduced energy consumption during AI task execution.

In addition to its resolute commitment to AI advancements for emission reduction, the government has allocated an extra £2.25 million to further bolster AI-related developments. This drive for innovation is an integral component of the comprehensive £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, firmly placing the UK at the forefront of AI-driven decarbonisation efforts.

Commenting on the transformative endeavour, Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, stressed the UK's global leadership in sophisticated AI and decarbonisation. The minister added that the unique position of the country necessitates pushing the boundaries of technology's potential to fuel the burgeoning sustainable energy sector.

According to him, projects like the ones announced today will take the nation one step closer to its ambitious goal of achieving net zero, while also improving energy security and creating a new generation of skilled jobs for the future.

Also echoing the sentiments, Viscount Camrose, Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, lauded AI's transformative power in driving monumental change. The winning projects stand as a testament to the UK's prowess in leveraging its world-class research foundation to tackle pressing global challenges.

Camrose noted that the country is exploiting the immense potential of AI technology to enhance people's lives, whether it is funding projects to help reduce emissions or funding research to revolutionise healthcare for patients.

Additionally, the government's Digital Catapult agency, which is part of Innovate UK and helps businesses advance their ideas, was also awarded up to £500,000 today to establish the UK's first Centre for Excellence on AI innovation for decarbonisation (ADViCE).

This visionary initiative will foster collaborative research between businesses, universities, and specialists, with the primary goal of harnessing AI technologies to curtail emissions.

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, highlighted the strategic importance of the ADViCE program in addressing critical decarbonisation concerns. He emphasised that this endeavour would facilitate impactful collaborations between the technology community and industries with significant carbon footprints.

He added that the effective use of AI and data will be critical to reaching the UK's net zero target. ADViCE will provide the most meaningful assistance to those developing algorithms and those investing in AI solutions, Silver noted.

The heart of the investment lies in the £1 million allocated to AI projects that are set to chart new pathways toward decarbonisation solutions. For example, Secqai Ltd., based in London, is pioneering an ultra-low-power AI technology mimicking the human brain's neural structure. This innovation is anticipated to significantly reduce the energy consumption associated with traditional AI systems, thus contributing to carbon footprint reduction.

Another promising initiative hails from Open Climate Fix Ltd., also based in London, securing £121,500 for the creation of AI systems facilitating the integration of solar electricity into the energy grid. By harnessing satellite and weather data, this project is poised to enhance renewable energy transmission by predicting solar energy inflow and mitigating network congestion.

The University of Nottingham's solar energy initiative is also set to receive a boost of £133,932. This project aims to elevate solar energy generation predictions through the innovative fusion of AI, sky photos, and weather data. Additionally, listt.io has dedicated £132,147 in funding to develop a groundbreaking agriculture robotics system. This technology will autonomously monitor soil and crop health, effectively aiding in crop management and driving dairy farm decarbonisation.

With the government further augmenting its AI for Decarbonisation Programme by injecting an additional £2.25 million, the total funds allocated have surged to an impressive £3.75 million. Energy companies, software developers and visionary entrepreneurs are invited to submit their proposals by the application deadline of October 10, 2023.