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Oscar Williams

News editor

The Turing appoints the University of London’s Sir Adrian Smith as director

The Alan Turing Institute has appointed the University of London’s vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, as institute director.

Smith is expected to take over from Sir Alan Wilson, who has served as interim CEO of the institute since October 2016, in autumn this year.

The statistician, who was previously director general of knowledge and innovation at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, said he was delighted to have the opportunity to lead the institute through its next phase of development.

“The Alan Turing Institute has a unique role to play in ensuring that the UK fully exploits the potential of advances in data science and AI to transform business and social systems for the benefit of society,” he said in a statement. 

In December, the government revealed that The Turing would take on a new role as the national research centre for artificial intelligence, following a review of the UK’s AI strategy. It has expanded rapidly in the last two months, with six universities joining, taking its total number of partners to 11.

Howard Covington, chair of institute, said he was delighted that Smith had agreed to take on the role: “He not only has a formidable academic record and a deep commitment to advancing scientific excellence but also a huge breadth of experience leading world-class research organisations and working with and within government.

“He is uniquely equipped to build on the success of the institute so far and to realise its aspirations of becoming a world leader in data science and artificial intelligence and playing a major role in the nation’s industrial strategy.”

Covington also thanked Wilson for his work: “[He] has led the institute superbly well and made an enormous contribution to the institute while we recruited for this permanent role.”

Smith became a fellow of the Royal Society in 2011 and was knighted in the 2011 New Year Honours list. In addition to his work at the University of London, he has recently carried out a government review of maths education for 16 to 18-year-olds.