Harnessing the power of ai – meeting the challenges and opportunities


TIME: 08:15 – 08:45: Registration and arrival teas/coffees and pastries, the conference will start at 09:00.

LOCATION: University of Exeter Great Hall.

LINK: https://swbcaiconference.eventbrite.co.uk/

How does the South West harness the power of AI to meet the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead?

Given the recent rapid rise in the profile of AI, it is key to understand and debate what is helpful and what perhaps is not so helpful in order to support citizens and organisations.

The conference will be opened by Paul Coles, CEO of the South West Business Council followed by a welcome address from the Vice Chancellor of Exeter University, Prof. Lisa Roberts, which will then be followed by a keynote speech from Matt Rodda, Shadow Minister for AI and Intellectual Property.

During the day we will seek to explore:

  • The strategic importance of AI for society.
  • How we make best use of technologies such as AI and Machine Learning – especially in terms of how they might improve productivity?
  • What is the role of government in terms of policy-setting frameworks to ensure that AI is a force for good both from a societal and business perspective?
  • Practical AI research and deployments that can enrich our lives in, for instance, the health sector.
  • Where AI could be a threat and how we mitigate against that threat?

Other speakers and panellists will include:

  • Prof. Simon Mcintosh-Smith – Simon is leading the Isambard-AI is a national Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (AIRR) project, a circa £250m initiative which will come online in summer 2024. Isambard-AI will enable a step-change in AI capability for the UK, delivering over 100 times more AI performance than the UK has had up to now.
  • Prof. Kirstine Dale – Kirstine Dale is the Met Office’s Chief AI Officer (CAIO) and Principal Fellow for Data ScienceKirstine will talk about AI addressing weather forecasting.
  • Dr John Downey – University of Plymouth, John will focus on revolutionising healthcare in the community and scaling up AI utilisation in the wild through living labs.
  • Charlie Courtenay – Partner at Michelmores LLP, The Earl of Devon and cross-bench member of the House of Lords. Charlie has a keen focus on the environment and technology. Charlie is also Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Intellectual Property.
  • Richard Potter – Director of Digital Strategy at Microsoft.
  • Prof. Robin L Pierce – Professor of AI and the Law at the University of Exeter. Her current research focuses on ethical, policy and regulatory approaches to the adoption and integration of digital technologies in health, medicine and the life sciences.
  • Prof. Miriam Koschate-Reis – Associate Professor for Computational Social Psychology and Deputy Director for the Institute for Data Science and AI (IDSAI) at the University of Exeter.
  • Chris Weavill – CEO at Hertzian

More speakers and panellists will be announced shortly, as will the timed agenda.

Conference Details:

Date: Friday 16th February 2024.

Location: The Great Hall, Exeter University, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4PY.

Time: 08:15 – 08:45: Registration and arrival teas/coffees and pastries, the conference will start at 09:00.

Travel Logistics:

By car

The M4/M5 links Exeter directly to London, the Midlands, South Wales and the North including Scotland. The average journey time from either London or the Midlands is 3 hours. Download the detailed directions to Streatham Campus by car.

Please note that parking on the Streatham Campus is very limited.

By bus/coach

The Streatham Campus is served by the UNI route. The UNI bus route includes St Luke’s Campus, the City Centre and Streatham Campus.

Download the UNI Bus Timetable (PDF)

National Express coaches (08705 808080) call at Exeter Coach Station. The Coach Station is a short walk to the High Street where you can catch the local D bus which will take you to the Streatham Campus.

By rail

Exeter has two railway stations – Exeter St David’s (main station) and Central. Exeter St David’s Station is approximately 10 minutes walk from the Streatham Campus and taxis are available. The average journey time from London Paddington is 2 hours 30 minutes to Exeter. See Streatham Campus map for the walking route.

Use National Rail Enquiries to plan your route. For passenger information telephone 08457 484950.

By taxi

Apple Taxis Exeter (01392 666666) have a dedicated taxi rank on campus. Apple Taxis have offices at both Exeter St David’s rail station and Exeter International Airport

On foot

The University is within easy walking distance of Exeter city centre. The city centre map shows the location of the Streatham Campus and the St Luke’s Campus, plus routes between the campuses and Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central train stations, all within walking distance.

Delegates are recommended to use public transport due to car parking restrictions.

This event is for both members and non-members of SWBC. Ticket numbers are limited and early booking to secure your seat is recommended.

Refund Policy – No refunds will be given except for in the event of the conference being cancelled by the organiser.



9.00 – 9.05: “Welcome to the conference“, Paul Coles, CEO, South West Business Council

9.05 – 9.15: “Welcome to the University of Exeter”, VC Prof. Lisa Roberts, University of Exeter

9.15 – 9.40: Keynote speech, Matt Rodda, Shadow Minister for AI and Intellectual Property

9.40 – 10.00: “The Ethics of Pro-Innovation Approach to AI“, Prof. Robin L. Pierce, Professor of AI and the Law, University of Exeter

10.00 – 10.30: “Isambard-AI: enabling the AI revolution in the UK“, Prof Simon McIntosh-Smith, Bristol University

10.25 – 10.45: Coffee break

10.45 – 11.05:” AI addressing weather forecasting“, Kirstine Dale, Met Office

11.05 – 11.25: “Revolutionizing healthcare in the community: scaling up AI utilisation in the wild through living labs”, Dr John Downey, University of Plymouth

11.25 – 11.50: “Transformation in a new era of AI” – Richard Potter, Director of Digital Strategy, Microsoft

11.50 – 12:30: Panel session on AI: Chair, Charlie Courtenay, Michelmores LLP, Lindsay Lucas, Cosmic, Layla Burrows, Innovate UK, Prof. Robin L. Pierce, University of Exeter, Prof. Miriam Koschate-Reis, University of Exeter, Chris Weavill, Hertzian.

12.30 – 12:45: Close: Stuart Brocklehurst, University of Exeter, Paul Coles, SWBC

12:45 onwards: Networking lunch

“It’s an exciting time to be in the South West, a fast-growing, internationally recognised tech hot spot. We are delighted to be supporting the SWBC conference and contributing to the discussions around how businesses can harness the power of AI.” Tom Torkar, Partner and Head of Commercial and Tech Innovation, Michelmores.

Michelmores is the destination law firm for the ambitious, the imaginative and the distinctive. We help businesses and individuals who are navigating change to find a more positive and sustainable future.

Technology and innovation are changing our world and the way business operates – never before has change occurred so fast. Our cross-practice Technology and Innovation team is leading the way in helping businesses with the complex legal and commercial challenges that come with the pace of change – unlocking the potential for growth and impact.

Our experts work with start-ups and disrupters with unicorn ambitions to global corporates looking to harness technology to evolve and transform. We offer insight and expertise to businesses in artificial intelligence, data and digital content, cyber security, FinTech, AgriTech, AdTech, EdTech and gaming spaces.

Hertzian is an AI and product company that focuses on the analysis of free text across a wide range of customer channels. We use the latest Machine Learning technology and Cloud infrastructure to provide never-before-seen customer insights for organizations around the world.

Founded in 2015, before the AI bloom, Hertzian started as part of the Falmouth University Launchpad programme. We were born from a clear need for organizations to be able to capture and understand the vast amounts of data being posted online daily about their products and services.

Since then the team has grown including our Cornwall office as well as additional staff remote from across the UK, Europe and the US. With our global community of clients, our products and services are helping transform the way businesses listen and engage their customers.

For example, our flagship product Player XP was designed for the games industry to help studios understand the sentiment of their communities’ online discussions. Studios like Warner Bros. Games, Rebellion and Saber use this to inform decisions about future releases or updates, marketing materials used to promote their games, and even throughout live operations.

Speaker: Paul Coles, CEO, SWBC

Paul is a strategic leader and thinker, who over the last few years has built a portfolio career covering the commercial world; public and third sectors. He has a passion for innovation and for digital which he brings to bear when seeking to advance the South-West economy.

Speaker: VC Prof. Lisa Roberts, University of Exeter

Professor Lisa Roberts has been President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter since September 2020. Prior to this role, Professor Roberts was Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds where she led on the development of the University’s research and innovation strategy.

Professor Roberts is a Professor of Virology, having studied for her PhD at the BBSRC Institute for Animal Health (now the Pirbright Institute) and the University of Kent. Earlier in her career, she worked as a Product Development Manager for Procter and Gamble in the UK and Belgium.

Regionally in the SouthWest, she is a member of the GW4 Council, an inaugural Commissioner for the South West Social Mobility Commission, and a Member of the Great South West Partnership Board. Lisa is the Chair of the IDP Connect Strategic Advisory Board.

Keynote Speaker: Matt Rodda, MP

Matt Rodda has been the Member of Parliament for Reading East since 2017. Matt served as a Councillor on Reading Borough Council. A graduate of the University of Sussex, Matt worked as a journalist at the Coventry Telegraph and The Independent before joining the Civil Service at the Department of Education and subsequently moved to the charitable sector.

In Parliament, Matt served as the Shadow Minister for Public Transport under Jeremy Corbyn and was reappointed as the Shadow Minister for Buses under Keir Starmer before being asked to take on the role of Shadow Minister for Pensions. He is now Shadow Minister for Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property.

Speaker: Prof. Simon Mackintosh-Smith, Bristol University

Simon McIntosh-Smith is a full Professor of High Performance Computing (HPC) at the University of Bristol. He is Director of the Isambard National Computing Facility, and PI for the upcoming Isambard-AI AI Research Resource (AIRR), and the Isambard 3 Tier-2 HPC system. A Computer Scientist by training, he spent 15 years in industry as a computer architect at companies including Inmos, STMicro, Pixelfusion and ClearSpeed, before joining the University of Bristol in 2009 to lead HPC and computer architecture research.

Speaker: Prof. Kirstine Dale, Chief AI Office, The MET Office

Kirstine Dale is the Met Office’s Chief AI Officer (CAIO) and Principal Fellow for Data Science. As CAIO she is charged with embedding AI in the Office’s core business: initially focusing on the use of AI in weather forecasting through leadership of the ‘AI for numerical weather prediction’ (AI4NWP) programme. As Principal Fellow, Kirstine plays a leading role in shaping the future of Data Science (including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) in the Met Office.

Kirstine is Co-Director of the Natural Environment Theme of the Turing Research and Innovation Cluster on Digital Twins (TRIC-DT) and an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter.

Panellist: Charlie Courtenay, The Earl of Devon and cross-bench member of the House of Lords.

Charles, the Earl of Devon, lives at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon. Powderham has been the Courtenay family home since 1390, and his family run the Castle as a heritage business, sustainably managing the ancient land and buildings for social benefit while hosting all manner of visitors throughout the year. Charles is both an English Barrister and a California attorney.

He practiced between 2003 and 2014 in Los Angeles, California, where he became an Intellectual Property and Technology litigator for Latham & Watkins. Since returning with his family to England in 2014, Charles succeeded his father to the ancient Earldom of Devon, moved his practice to the law firm of Michelmores LLP, and took a seat in the House of Lords as a cross-bench hereditary peer. In the Lords, Charles focuses upon rural, agricultural, environmental, social and technology matters, and he is a passionate advocate and champion of his home county of Devon.

Speaker: Dr John Downey, Lecturer in Digital Health, Univerity of Plymouth.

Dr John Downey is an applied digital transformation researcher with and interest in behavioural and implementation science. John is currently working with colleagues and key stakeholders on the ambitious plan to revolutionise care in the community through one of the world’s biggest living labs. John brings its expertise in intervention design, evaluation, and human factors to navigate the complex field of introducing AI and predictive analysis into healthcare and enriching usual health pathways.

Speaker: Richard Potter, Director of Digital Strategy, Microsoft.

Richard advises business leaders around the world on a range of digital transformation challenges. He is passionate about building innovative enterprises.

In his day job Richard works with Microsoft’s customers giving them clarity and confidence about their digital journeys, helping them turn their aspirations into transformational business results.

He is a renowned keynote speaker and event facilitator with an energising and engaging style. He lives in the UK but travels extensively, shamelessly collecting and telling stories everywhere he goes.

Speaker: Prof. Robin L. Pierce.

Robin is Professor of AI and the Law at the University of Exeter. Her current research focuses on ethical, policy and regulatory approaches to the adoption and integration of digital technologies in health, medicine, and the life sciences. Professor Pierce has served on advisory boards for several health-related and life science research initiatives and committees in Europe and North America. Her teaching has covered such diverse areas as “AI and the Law” at the University of Exeter to “Social Issues in Biology” in the Microbiology Department at Harvard Medical School. She has published across disciplines in such journals as Nature, Biotechnology, and European Data Protection Law journal. She earned her PhD from Harvard University, JD (Juris Doctor) from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall School of Law).

Panellist: Lindsay Lucas, Senior Digital Consultant Cosmic.

Lindsay is a Senior Digital Consultant at Cosmic, one of the leading social enterprises in the South West and recognised across the UK for its achievements and ongoing development. Lindsay has over 17 years’ experience in the Tech industry including running a successful Digital Transformation and Custom Software Organisation and an Insurtech startup. Lindsay has worked with global insurance brands, large charities as well as healthcare, retail and logistics organisations to help them digitally evolve, develop software systems and ultimately transform through the use of technology.

Recognised as a finalist in the Women in Tech Leadership Award and a recipient of accolades like Best Company to Work for at the UK Employee Experience Awards, her expertise spans across all areas of business with specialism in Operations, IT, Project and Account Management where she has consistently created and led strong teams, cultivated engaged communities and instigated transformative shifts in organisational culture.

Lindsay is passionate about Digital Inclusion, Digital Strategy, Talent development and Organisational culture.

Panellist: Prof. Miriam Koschate-Reis, Associate Professor for Computational Social Psychology & Deputy Director for Data Science & AI, University of Exeter.

Miriam’s current research focuses on language use in AI and how to make AI accessible and acceptable.

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