Two Scottish universities have taken a £1m-plus share of a UK-wide research fund for artificial intelligence in healthcare.

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University will take £644,000 for AI research in keyhole surgery, whilst Edinburgh University receives £599,00 for AI research into designing new therapies for rare inherited diseases.

Both awards are part of £13m in research grants allocated by the UK Government to 22 universities across the country.

Other recipients include Oxford University, which receives £644,000 for using AI for clinical risk prediction and Imperial College London, which gets £600,000 for using AI to predict the impact of pollution on health.

The full listings for the Scottish recipients, under UKRI’s Technology Missions Fund, are as follows:

  • Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh: £644,000 to develop a system that assists trainee surgeons to practice laparoscopy procedures, commonly known as keyhole surgery, with real-time feedback on their movements
  • Intelligent Deimmunization for Enzyme Replacement Therapies. Dr Giovanni Stracquadanio, The University of Edinburgh. Grant: £599,000. The project uses AI to design new therapies for rare inherited diseases.

The announcement came on the same day that the government appointed two leading experts to spearhead preparations for the UK to host the first major international summit on the safe use of AI.

Matt Clifford and Jonathan Black will be charged with rallying leading AI nations, companies and experts, ahead of the event in the UK this autumn.

Matt is the CEO of Entrepreneur First and Chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. Jonathan is a Heywood Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and former UK G7 and G20 Sherpa and Deputy National Security Adviser.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The UK has a proud history of demonstrating diplomatic leadership on the most important issues of the day and Matt and Jonathan’s experience and expertise means that they are perfectly placed to lay the groundwork ahead of talks this year on safe and responsible AI.

“We’re already a leading nation when it comes to artificial intelligence – and this summit will help cement our position as the home of safe innovation.

“By leading on the international stage, we will improve lives at home. AI will revolutionise the way we live, including our healthcare system. That’s why we’re backing the UK’s fantastic innovators to save lives by boosting the frontline of our NHS and tackling the major health challenges of our time.”

Dr Kedar Pandya, executive director, Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI, said: “The potential for AI to accelerate and improve all aspects of our health is vast.

“The UK is in a strong position in this field but with a range of challenges across many aspects of society, including the healthcare system, novel solutions are needed. That is why UKRI is investing in these projects in order to advance our research and improve health diagnostics and outcomes.”