Future Intelligent Technologies

The Future Intelligent Technologies (FIT) priority promotes research which aims to develop intelligent, adaptive or autonomous systems that can learn, adapt and make decisions without the need for human control. FIT research will inform and contribute to a new level of smartness where, for example, systems exhibit a level of social intelligence, being able to both understand context and adapt accordingly. This is a high-ambition priority, where we can start to move towards the goal of computing-with-meaning, with computational systems able to interpret and make sense of information about the world around us in a manner that matches, or even exceeds, levels of human performance.

Implementation of the Priority

A focus on highly ambitious, advanced and innovative research is key to the success of this priority. The core objectives to reach the goal of the FIT priority seek to encourage cross-disciplinary action by identifying potential research areas of interest and bringing together relevant groups with disparate expertise. For example, it is not sufficient to only target the scientific and algorithmic challenges as seen in the Robotics, Automation and Artificial Intelligence strategic focus, but also the effects of social intelligence and societal challenges involved with an overarching acceptability of research developments within this area.

We envisage a range of activities being supported under this priority. These could include workshops or networks to develop ideas through to support for research projects. A common feature of all activities under this banner however will be cross-disciplinarity.

As an example of developing a Future Intelligent Technology, take the case of Human-Like Computing. This concept takes a different approach to artificial intelligence and machine learning with the development of machines with human-like perceptual, reasoning and learning abilities, which further support collaboration and communication with human beings.

Having been persuaded that this was an important topic to explore EPSRC has supported two workshops bringing together computer and cognitive scientists to explore what Human-Like Computing might mean and what research might need to be put in place that would eventually lead to the design of such systems. FIT support thus takes the form of initial workshops which will potentially lead to some form of networking activity to develop a roadmap setting out initial research priorities aimed at the eventual goal of human-like systems. A Strategy Roadmap for Research came out of these discussions.

Given the importance of Public Engagement (PE) and Responsible Innovation (RI) to this priority, these aspects could be given prominence though specific PE/RI-focussed awards. Alternatively, they could be embedded within any activities that are funded (e.g. a requirement in Fellowship and Programme Grant applications to address PE and RI).

What does this mean for applicants?

Applicants should take under consideration that incremental advances to current technologies are not sufficient to engage with the scope of the FIT priority and that a wider, cross-disciplinary approach will be required to meet the high level of ambition expected. The complexities and research challenges contained within the development of FIT greatly reflect and encourage the need for cross-disciplinary interaction between fields with comparatively divergent interests, such as computer science, maths, engineering, statistics, human and behavioural sciences.

Applicants should also consider Responsible Innovation and Public Engagement as high priorities for FIT research. Other cross-ICT priorities such as Data-Enabled Decision Making, People at the Heart of ICT and Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation are also closely related to this strategic priority.