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  • Date and time: Tuesday 20 February 2024, 6pm to 7.30pm
  • Location: In-person only
    Room RCH/037, Ron Cooke Hub, Campus East, University of York (Map)
  • Audience: Open to alumni, staff, students, the public
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

Institute for Safe Autonomy Launch Event

Join us to celebrate the official opening of the Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA) at the University of York. We will host a panel discussion with leading experts in the field of AI and robotics including technology journalist Rory Cellan-Jones and Professor John McDermid, a world-leading expert on safety assurance of autonomous systems

From driverless cars and remotely monitored ships, to robotic arms and virtual assistants – new technologies which can learn and solve problems independently are transforming the way we live, travel and work. The Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA) has been created to ensure that these systems, their software, and their communications are safe.


  • John McDermid, Professor of Computer Science, University of York
  • Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology journalist
  • Ruth Boumphrey, Chief Executive Lloyd's Register Foundation
  • Gopal Ramchurn, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Southampton. 

Chaired by Fiona Fox, writer and Chief Executive of the Science Media Centre.

About the speakers

John McDermid became Professor of Software Engineering at the University of York in 1987. His research covers a broad range of issues in systems, software and safety engineering. He became Director of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation funded Assuring Autonomy International Programme in January 2018, focusing on safety of robotics and autonomous systems.

He acts as an advisor to government and industry and is actively involved in standards development, including work on safety and software standards for civilian and defence applications.

Rory Cellan-Jones was a reporter for the BBC for thirty years, covering business and technology stories for much of that time. At the beginning of 2007 he was appointed Technology Correspondent with a brief to expand the BBC’s coverage of the impact of the internet on business and society. His first big story was the unveiling of the iPhone by Steve Jobs in San Francisco. He covered technology for television, radio and the BBC website, blogged regularly, and built up a big presence on social media. In 2001 his first book ‘Dot Bomb’, a critically acclaimed account of Britain’s dot com bubble, was published. In 2014 he began presenting a new weekly programme, Tech Tent, on the BBC World Service. In 2021 ‘Always On: Hope and Fear in the Social Smartphone Era’ documented Rory’s experiences reporting on the smartphone era. It was described by Stephen Fry as ‘delightfully insightful and intensely readable’. In 2021 he was also made an Honorary Fellow of The National Museum of Computing in recognition of his services to technology education. Since leaving the BBC, Rory has become an independent technology consultant, writer and broadcaster. He has also started a newsletter about health tech, one of his major interests. He has been investigating, in particular, the role technology can play in improving the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, having been diagnosed with the condition in 2019. 

Gopal Ramchurn is Professor of AI and CEO of £31m Responsible AI UK programme. He is a Turing Fellow, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (UK) and Director of the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Hub, which sits at the centre of the £33M Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Programme. He is also co-founder of the AI start-up Empati Ltd, which delivers solutions for real-time carbon accounting across grid, generation and consumption. His research interests include the development of core AI technologies and Human-AI partnerships and their application to key sustainability challenges.

Fiona Fox has a degree in journalism and many years of experience working in media relations for high profile national organisations. Her career includes stints working for, amongst others, the Equal Opportunities Committee, the National Council for One Parent Families, and CAFOD (a leading aid agency).

The founding director of the Science Media Centre when it was established in 2002, under Fiona’s leadership the Centre has become an indispensable resource for science journalists. The Centre provides scientific context and comment from some of the UK’s top scientists for many major news stories thanks to the Centre’s media database, which has over 2300 such experts on it.

Fiona is a regular commentator on science in the media and was the only representative from the scientific community invited to give evidence at the Levenson Inquiry into press standards in the UK in 2012. She is an outspoken champion for openness in science and, as part of this, led a successful campaign in 2017 for changes to the British Government’s purdah rules, ensuring government funded scientists are free to speak out during election periods.

Fiona has received many accolades for her services to science, including an OBE, honorary fellowships of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Society of Biology and the British Pharmacology Society, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol. She has received awards from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the British Neuroscience Association, and a special award from Understanding Animal Research for promoting openness in animal research.

Venue details

  • Wheelchair accessible