Tech giant Samsung is opening an AI research lab in Cambridge. The move to do this has been welcomed by British Prime Minister Theresa May, but there’s concern over a mass funneling of graduates out of academic AI research.
This centre joins Samsung’s other AI centres in Moscow and Toronto. The move to build a research lab in Britain, specifically for AI, comes as no surprise following a recent announcement by Prime Minister May’s government.
U.K. spurs AI research
The U.K. government recently announced a USD$400 million investment in AI from corporations and investment firms based in and out of the U.K. In addition, a report from the House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee states that while the U.K. can’t outspend leaders like China, they can still become leaders in AI.
BBC reported that the new centre will be lead by professor Andrew Blake, formerly of Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge and the new Samsung AI lab “could recruit as many as 150 scientists.”
The brain drain
According to the BBC, there’s concern over a funneling of graduates in AI research out of academics and into private sector work:
“A recent study by recruitment specialists Odgers Berndtson found just 225 students in the country were doing post-graduate technology research in specialist areas including AI and machine learning. “In the US, PhD qualified experts can command packages of $300,000 [£223,000]. And in the UK, whilst not yet at that level, salaries are spiralling,” said Mike Drew, head of technology at the headhunting company. A large part of the problem is that industry is picking university departments clean of their talent. A distinguished academic in the AI field confirmed this to me – he said anyone who had done post-graduate research in machine learning could ‘name their price.'”
This isn’t an isolated situation, the same concern was raised when Facebook decided to open new AI labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, with professors, scholars and researchers from local universities worrying about the future of academic AI research when so many graduates leave for corporate — and greener — pastures.
Engineers need to use tech to make humans more powerful
James Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, gave the convocation speech to Boston University’s College of Engineering and talks about how engineers can create better machines and tools for humans, rather than just focusing on robots that put humans out of work.
In his convocation speech, Heppelmann focused on the importance of better connecting humans with digital tools and creating tools and machines that don’t just aim to replace humans, but creating machines that will aid humans in their understanding of the digital world.
One of the ways to do this, Heppelmann said, is using AR. In his view, AR will help to alleviate some of the problems caused by the great divide created by automation — where people have been split into two camps: the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The “haves” are the ones who are benefitting from, understanding and creating automation, the “have-nots” are those who are being replaced. Heppelmann said that this imbalance creates an image problem for the tech industry.
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He said that there needs to be a stronger focus on connecting physical, digital and human capabilities because “humans have innovation and creativity” and future engineers and tech industry professionals need to create “new ways to pass digital information onto humans.”
He describes AR as “augmenting god-given human capabilities with a technology overlay,” like one might see in a hearing aid or smart glasses. By giving humans this overlay of digital information, AR becomes “a great equalizer [that] allows people to become smart and connected.”
An example of this would be giving employees in a factory a pair of smart glasses to help the human employee with their productivity.
The Future Of The Factory: How #Technology Is Transforming Manufacturing https://t.co/c0H2QNxOnr @cbinsights#Industry40 #IoT #IIoT #BigData #AI #Robotics #Automation #AR #VR #Blockchain #3Dprinting #Tech@alvinfoo @KaiGrunwitz @robvank @IIoT_World @TopCyberNews @HeinzVHoenen pic.twitter.com/vDyxEfdzk2
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Heppelmann said that engineers have a responsibility to “elevate [their] focus higher than productivity and cost savings” and spoke about the concept of “the societal engineer,” which is an engineer “who uses digital technology to make humans more powerful.”
“The societal engineer combines quantitative and creative problem solving skills with the ability to communicate effectively with systems-level thinking and global awareness with a passion for innovation and awareness of public policy and a social consciousness and an appreciation for the need to improve the quality of life while creating jobs and economic opportunities.”
Heppelmann ends his convocation speech by asking engineers to take this responsibility seriously and “help create a safer, more sustainable, healthier more productive world with enough food and water and opportunity for all.”
Talent and diversity to drive this year’s Elevate tech festival
The Elevate Tech festival is only one year old, but after watching this week’s launch event at Shopify’s Toronto HQ, it appears that Canada’s largest tech festival has grown by leaps and bounds.
Elevate will run in Toronto from September 24-27, with 10,000 attendees expected and 250 venues taking part. Notable speakers on this year’s main stage will include Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of dating app Bumble, and environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.
Celebrating Canada’s talent
This year’s festival will put a big emphasis on talent, one of Canada’s greatest assets when it comes to tech innovation. Elevate is teaming up with Startup Open House, as well as last year’s partners NewCo, to help connect 4,000 students, job-seekers, and young professionals with some of the many great companies driving Canada’s innovation ecosystem.
While last year’s festival made the point of putting Toronto and its tech innovation ecosystem on the global stage, the conversation has broadened for Elevate 2018. Now billed as Canada’s Tech Week, CEO Razor Suleman said the 2018 festival will shed light on Canada’s growing tech landscape as a whole, and even reach out to Canadian expats around the globe, letting them know that things are moving in the right direction back home.
Collaboration, diversity and growing together
For Suleman, the biggest lesson learned from last year’s Elevate, and the biggest opportunity for 2018, is the strength of collaboration that made the festival possible.
“Partnering with the community and being open and collaborative is the best way to create something that we’re all passionate about, and ultimately scale the festival and realize the vision we have,” said Suleman.
Crucial to that collaboration is showing the diverse nature of Canada’s innovation community. Just as at last year’s Elevate, the motto ‘Diversity is our strength’ is key to Canada’s Tech Week. Suleman said that this year’s festival will continue to seek out new ways to reach out to diverse parts of Canada’s innovation community and get them involved.
“This year when we looked at the ten-thousand-person capacity that we have, we broke down the different demographics and wanted to make sure that we got representation. We’re super passionate, as is our parter TD, about involving students. We’ve got the Investor Group coming. We’d love to have more female investors, we’d love to have more women in tech, we’d love to have entrepreneurs that are visible minorities. All of the ecosystem is welcome.”
Between big name speakers, the emphasis on talent and the continued commitment to diversity, Elevate’s 2018 offering is sure to stir creative innovation and collaboration.
Three big examples of DX culture shift
Digital transformation is not just about technology and big ideas. For digital transformation to be undertaken smoothly, a cultural change, involving all employees, need to take place.
Most headline messages about digital transformation discuss the necessity of switching from legacy systems; avoiding siloed data; and focusing on developing the digital understanding of C-suite executives. What is often missing from the discussion is the need to develop a new culture. This is a culture of innovation, understanding and shared values in order to innovate product and service development.
Analysis by MIT Sloan and Deloitte into business-focused digital successes and failures concluded:
“The history of technological advance in business is littered with examples of companies focusing on technologies without investing in organizational capabilities that ensure their impact. In many companies, (failures are) classic examples of expectations falling short because organizations didn’t change mindsets and processes or build cultures that fostered change.”
The survey also found, as Sloan Review summarizes, that the ability to digitally reimagine the business is a key factor of clear digital strategy. Such organizational vision, supported by leaders, fosters an innovative, change-friendly culture. For this to happen, the workforce needs to willingly and determinedly take on the digital transformation path.
Taking employees on the journey
This means every employee in the company should understand and support collaborative practices, innovation, open culture and adopting a digital-first mindset; plus, having the agility and flexibility, customer centricity to deliver change. Once this is in place a data-driven culture will start to form and new technologies can be steadily adopted.
This means companies need to implement systemic changes in how they organize and develop workforces. Organizations also need to seriously consider how they drive workplace innovation, and work collectively to cultivate digitally-minded cultures and experiences.
As to how this might work in practice, one example is Coca Cola. The company acknowledges that culture change is one of the most difficult aspects of digital transformation to realize.
The soft drinks firm’s digital strategy officer, David Godsman notes that changing culture across the marketing team is the hardest thing Coca-Cola has to tackle as it undergoes the necessary transformation to bring the enterprise into the digital age.
Coca Cola is also attempting to alter its customer focus, acknowledging the need to create personalized experiences for consumers and customers, to fit in with consumers seeking multi-channel experiences and fast mobile access, especially when receiving promotions.
Latitude financial services
A second example of digital transformation with a customer focus is with Latitude financial services. According to Caroline Ruddick, who is the company’s general manager of marketing, there needs to be a twin strategy of developing and improving the customer experience. This shift in strategy, says Ruddick, must be bound to the process of ensuring that employees are responsive to the changes taking place within the organization so they can successful and emphatically offer high quality outfacing services.
Tied up with this is recognition that customers are increasingly more concerned about the experience of dealing with a product or company, seeking an easier, multi-channel offering, and they are less concerned about the actual product, or at least with having any significant loyalty to one product over another.
Adobe provides a third example of a company that has recognized the value of culture change. According to Vision Critical, when Adobe made the decision to transition from physical software to a cloud-based model, the company recognized that it was necessary to shift its employees’ focus towards the the customer.
This was undertaken by developing a staff Experience-a-thon. Adobe had employees role play testing and providing feedback on Adobe portfolio of products, pretending to be customers. This led to an employee engagement strategy and a shift in culture, paving the way for Adobe’s evolution into a cloud company.
These examples demonstrate that the ‘big moment’ for an organization is when it embraces the fact that digital transformation is not a a technical problem to be fixed, but instead it is a cultural change to be enacted through the enterprise.
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