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The University of Southampton

Southampton Dean calls for blurring of engineering and computer science to realise AI future

Published: 3 December 2019
Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi
Professor Bashir M. Al-Hashimi

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi has appealed for the UK to immediately embrace machine-learning and data science in the engineering curriculum so the country can be at the forefront of electronic systems of the future.

The Dean of the Faculty at the University of Southampton said an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach would be imperative to realising effective Digital Engineering in an address at the prestigious TechWorks Awards in London.

Addressing the UK’s deep tech hub at the Royal Garden Hotel, he told the sector it was the “opportune time” to consider the range of graduate skills needed to design the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and called for a blurring of traditional boundaries between the distinct disciplines of computer science and engineering.

It is estimated that the UK needs to produce an extra 20,000 graduate engineers every year in order to sustain the electronics industry, with a further 260,000 skilled people needed to meet its ambitions to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027 and establish the UK as the most innovative country in the world.

“As engineers we have a strong obligation to establish the UK as a global leader in the AI systems field and to ensure this exciting opportunity fulfils its promise,” Bashir said.

“I believe passionately that we must take action now to ensure that our future programmes provide the people and the expertise to lead the engineering design, management and training of the AI systems of the future – systems that will underpin autonomous transportation, intelligent large-scale infrastructures, and smart personalised healthcare.”

Next-generation AI hardware will need to be more powerful, more reliable and more cost efficient to deliver a more connected and automated world.

“Engineering AI systems is a collaborative process and cannot be achieved solely by academics working on their own,” he warned. “Strong partnership between academia, business and the engineering professional institutes is essential to ensure the design and relevance of these new courses to the existing and emergent industries for which we urgently need to train our graduates.”

Bashir is an Arm Professor of Computer Engineering with a worldwide reputation for research into energy efficient and reliable embedded systems. Earlier this year, he was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to engineering and industry.

His full article can be viewed - Engineering AI systems: too crucial to leave to chance?

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