Microsoft to incubate 12 UK startups that use AI for good

The tech giant will help UK firms that use technology to tackle environmental, societal and cultural challenges

Microsoft is opening its technology, resources and expertise to 12 UK startups that use AI to tackle societal challenges such as recycling and internet access for deaf people. 

The AI for Good 2020 cohort has been developed in partnership with the Social Tech Trust and will run for four months from 7 February. 

It's based in London and features AI startups from around the UK that focus on four specific areas: AI for Earth, AI for Accessibility, AI for Humanitarian Action and AI for Cultural Heritage. 

Microsoft is keen to help these startups make an even bigger positive impact on the world around them, according to Amali de Alwis, UK managing director for Microsoft for Startups.  

"These 12 companies are some of the brightest and most cutting-edge businesses in Britain, and I am delighted to welcome to them to our cohort," she said.

"They are all aiming to make the world a better place by using technology to tackle complex problems - from accessibility and heritage to sustainability. 

Among the cohort is London-based Recycleye, which is a company that uses image recognition to improve waste management. The company's CEO, Victor Dewulf said its motto is "waste doesn't exist, it's just materials in the wrong place."

"The reason a lot of materials aren't recycled is because the cost of sorting it at plants is too expensive and that's because the waste industry hasn't really changed in the past 50 years," he said. 

"To sort different types of recyclable material, the industry is using a lot of large and incredibly expensive sensors, which can miss some items. Using computer vision means we can use just one sensor for the whole plant that's much more cost-effective."

The other 11 companies are Hello Lamp Post, Akari, Baobab, BeneTalk, Chatterbox, Good Boost, EcoSync, miiCARE, MyCognition, OrxaGrid and Signly - a startup that has developed a browser extension that enables sign language for web pages.  

"If you're Deaf and your account is overdrawn at your bank, you might have to wait weeks for an interpreter, ask friends or family who can use British Sign Language (BSL) or contact a deaf organisation to use the website and sort it out," said Signly ambassador Tim Scannell. "All that takes time and the overdraft is costing you money. Now, BSL users can self-serve."

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