DeepMind is funding climate change research at the University of Cambridge as it looks to slow down global warming and reduce global energy consumption.
The artificial intelligence (AI) lab, which was acquired by Google for around £400 million in 2014, has committed an unknown amount of funding to the University of Cambridge.
“DeepMind has a long-standing commitment to supporting research and as part of this is funding some research at Cambridge that focuses on climate change,” a DeepMind spokesperson told Business Insider.
“It’s always been part of DeepMind’s mission to contribute to some of the biggest questions facing society and there are few areas more important or more urgent than climate change.”
DeepMind has a close relationship with Oxford and Cambridge. It has hired dozens of graduates and researchers away from the top tier universities — raising concerns that some kinds of AI research may end up being neglected — but it also provides them with funding for research projects and PhDs.
DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis explained DeepMind’s relationship with academia in a blog post on the company’s website in January but there was no mention of Cambridge at the time.
In the blog post, Hassabis stressed the importance of collaboration between academia and private companies, before going on to point out that DeepMind’s employees publish a significant number of academic papers.
“We think it’s important for the field that there are as many thriving independent academic institutions as possible,” said Hassabis.
“That’s why we’re providing sponsorship for several research labs and their PhD students to pursue their own research priorities in whichever way they choose, including the University of Alberta, University of Montreal, University of Amsterdam, Gatsby Unit at UCL, NYU and Oxford, and others.”
All of the tech companies are trying to find people who can help them make AI breakthroughs that they can embed into their products and services. Funding students who are about to learn under some of the brightest minds in the world is likely to help DeepMind in its hiring efforts.
DeepMind has said that it wants to use its self-learning algorithms to try and tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.
Its algorithms are already being used by parent company Google to slash the amount of energy used by cooling units in Google’s power-hungry data centres by 40% and it’s in talks with the National Grid about using its technology to reduce the UK’s overall energy consumption — a move that could prove to be highly lucrative for DeepMind. DeepMind is also working the NHS on a number of projects.
Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder of DeepMind, said in May that the issues of clean water and food availability are only going to intensify as a result of global warming, adding that the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is higher than ever. “We have ticking time bombs that our current systems are struggling to address,” he said.