£10 million pound Centre dedicated to safety assurance of AI and autonomy opens at York

News | Posted on Wednesday 3 April 2024

The new Centre for Assuring Autonomy, a partnership between Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the University of York, has launched to address the pressing challenges around safety which are preventing society from unlocking the full benefits of AI and autonomy.

Based at the University of York, the Centre has the capability to work directly with industry and the regulatory community on safety assurance of AI and machine learning enabled systems, from development through to deployment, and whole of life operation, thanks to unique on-site testing facilities. 

Professor John McDermid OBE FREng, Director of the Centre, said: 

“Advancing safety assurance of AI, autonomy and robotics is critical to realising the potential of such systems across multiple sectors. AI and autonomy will affect us in the home, at work, as we travel and will affect society more generally, e.g. through healthcare provision. We are at a transition for AI and autonomy with systems starting to be deployed at scale - the Centre is well-poised to help this transition to be net beneficial to society. "

The Centre will work directly with other research organisations, industry and regulators, but has the distinctive benefit of being a neutral, independent, and trusted body focused entirely on safety of AI and autonomy. This includes publishing free guidance for the benefit and use of all and providing education and training to give developers, users, and regulators of AI and autonomous systems the skills, confidence and knowledge to use safety assurance methodologies.

Professor McDermid added: “Through our research, partnerships and collaborations we’re developing practical techniques to assure autonomous systems – that is: to have justified confidence in them. With autonomous systems and AI being adopted by companies across the globe, without this assurance there will likely be both missed opportunities and, worse, avoidable harms.”

As part of the Centre, philanthropists and Honorary Graduate Dr Irwin and Mrs Joan Jacobs, have donated £2 million to establish the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Scholarship Programme.

The Centre for Assuring Autonomy will have three main priorities for research; post-deployment assurance, human-centric autonomy, and informed governance. In addition, the Centre is also home to the UK’s only PhD programme dedicated to Safe AI through life. The UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training on Lifelong Safety Assurance of AI-Enabled Autonomous Systems (SAINTS), which is supported by the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Scholarship Programme, will welcome its first cohort of 12 PhD students in September this year and will work directly with industry and regulators to train future leaders with the research expertise and skills necessary to see organisations across the world benefit from the safe rollout of AI enabled systems. 

Notes to editors:

About The Centre for Assuring Autonomy

The Centre for Assuring Autonomy is an independent research and innovation centre which builds on the work of the Assuring Autonomy International Programme. The Centre encompasses  both innovation and research around safety assurance of AI, machine learning (ML), autonomous systems, and robotics, working across all sectors and with partner organisations across the globe.  Based in the University of York, the Centre is an international leader in safety assurance of AI, autonomous systems and robotics, and is complemented by a newly launched UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training on Lifelong Safety Assurance of AI-Enabled Autonomous Systems (SAINTS).


About Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global charity that supports research, innovation, and education to make the world a safer place. Its mission is to use the best evidence and insight to help the global community focus on tackling the world’s most pressing safety and risk challenges. For more information, please visit www.lrfoundation.org.uk

Watch the Centre for Assuring Autonomy Launch webinar

Watch https://youtu.be/-GwCnvV3hmU?si=pcAPsWG8Ta43j7e0 on YouTube

Miss our launch webinar? Watch it on our YouTube channel