I was privileged to chair this week’s Virtual AI Summit London, which represented a European region that is home to a hotbed of start-ups in the field of AI. It’s also where some of the largest and most advanced engineering companies in the world reside. This combination is driving significant innovation in AI and putting it to work on the most challenging use cases.  

The AI renaissance: why it’s taken off and where it’s going

With many industry leaders presenting, the event promised to peel back the layers of these thriving ecosystems and offer unique insights. And it didn’t disappoint. Amongst the keynotes, two trends really stood out – building trust in AI and using AI to address climate change, specifically decarbonisation. Rolls-Royce, E.ON and Shell, gave insightful perspectives on these topics, which I will expand on shortly.  

A third trend that encapsulated many of the talks was how to make the leap from proof-of-concept (PoC) to real-world commercial deployment. More and more PoCs are born from organisations developing unique strains of their own AI innovation, which promises a significant increase in value compared to generic out-of-the-box solutions.

This was the focus of my ‘Scaling Up AI Innovation’ welcome address where I outlined my perspectives on how to scale successful AI strategies and the future machine learning innovations that will revolutionise industry. 

A question of trust 

It’s essential to build trust to realise the potential of AI, particularly in safety critical applications where reliability is essential. But to date, it's not been so easy to engineer. 

The keynote and discussion that best captured the importance of trust in AI – and how theory is starting to move into the real world – was with Warren East, CEO at Rolls-Royce. 

Warren outlined how his company has built a step-by-step process for ensuring the outcomes of AI algorithms can be trusted. It forms part of their new AI ethics framework. 

Progress in this area is critical on two levels. Firstly, it’s vital those deploying AI can rely on the output. At the simplest level, this means understanding the limits of algorithms and being able to monitor them in use. Secondly, only by building trust with regulators and the general public will we see large-scale deployment of AI and the benefits this can bring.   

The project at Rolls-Royce is a first of its kind and one I hope more businesses will engage with and take inspiration from. You can read more in the press release Rolls-Royce published on the projects earlier this week.  

Can AI combat climate change? 

Global challenges don’t come much bigger than tackling climate change. It’s well understood that the energy system has a major role to play in decarbonisation and will need to change substantially in the coming decades.  

This was reflected in the presentations and conversations I had with Yuri Sebregts, CTO of Shell and Matthew Timms, CEO of E.ON Digital. Both stated advanced use of data and AI will sit at the heart of enabling ‘energy transition’ to non-carbon sources within their companies. 

I was particularly inspired by Yuri’s focus on collaborating with partners to achieve this. The idea of placing customer choice at the centre of decarbonisation, so we naturally choose the low carbon alternative, was equally compelling. You can watch my conversation with Yuri below.  

In summary, the Virtual AI Summit London this year confirmed my view that we are at the tipping point of scaling AI to create significant business value and touch the big global issues, like climate change.   

That said, we must continue to collaborate as an industry to build the trust and drive the invention that will see these principles take flight into more real-world applications. I continue to be excited working alongside our clients to make this happen.  

I now look forward to working with our US team to chair the Virtual AI Summit Silicon Valley on the 30 September. We’re pleased to have another impressive line-up of speakers, including Ford, Halliburton, Nike and Johnson & Johnson.  

To find out more about what’s happening in today’s market to spark AI innovation and where the opportunities lie for ambitious businesses, download our new whitepaper. If you’d like to talk more about these topics, or any other business challenge needing a unique AI solution, please get in touch.

Tim Ensor
Director of Artificial Intelligence