In February 2023, we announced the launch of the Aioi R&D Lab - Oxford, a joint venture between Mind Foundry and our partners Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance (ANDI) and Aioi Nissay Dowa Europe (AND-E). This is the first of its kind research lab, so naturally you may be thinking… What is it exactly? In this article we’ll tell you all you need to know.
Introducing the Aioi R&D Lab - Oxford
The Aioi R&D Lab - Oxford aims to solve global-scale societal issues through the creation of products and services powered by AI technologies – ranging from the impact of increased automation to issues related to the climate crisis and the continued ageing of populations. The Lab is a joint venture between Mind Foundry, an Oxford AI spinout, and the global insurance brand Aioi Nissay Dowa.
As a hub for innovation, the Aioi R&D Lab - Oxford brings together experts from a range of disciplines to develop real-world solutions for some of the most significant challenges affecting societies worldwide.
Prior to the Lab, the strategic partnership between Mind Foundry and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance had already delivered improvements across customer retention, safe driving, fraud detection and automation across the board. The idea for the Lab came out of the idea to push this partnership further to develop real-world solutions to tackle even bigger problems – with a focus on embedding AI into specific applications.
"Decisions that are being made now affect what happens in 10 to 100 years' time. We need to work to understand what those possible futures might look like"
Professor Stephen Roberts, Mind Foundry Co-founder and University of Oxford Professor of Machine Learning.
The mission of the Lab is to bring humans and AI together to create shared value around the world. The research conducted will focus on global-scale societal issues, including:
Mobility for all: Developing products that insure individuals continuously across multiple modes of mobility (car, train, scooter, etc.) to reduce risk, traffic accidents, and CO2 emissions
Autonomous driving: Developing models of insurance for autonomous vehicles, where insurers need to understand a vehicle's sensors and the complexities of how self-driving algorithms are configured
Future of insurance: Developing the next generation of telematics-based insurance, personalised insurance, and insurance for Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Climate: Developing solutions to reduce carbon and energy use in transport, preserve biodiversity, and gain a better understanding of the changing risks associated with climate change
Health and wellness: Developing solutions to help society deal with ageing populations and extend wellness and healthcare
By bringing together different philosophies and science under one roof, the lab aims to build a better understanding of the data that surrounds us all and identify ways in which truly informative “big knowledge” can be extracted from that information, not just “big data”, said Mind Foundry co-founder and University of Oxford Professor of Machine Learning Stephen Roberts: “Big data is useful up to a point, but what we need now are very smart algorithms that can distil that data into knowledge that is interpretable, valuable, understandable, and beneficial to everybody. We want to understand the societal impact – not just of insurance, but of risk, environment, and sustainability – and form a foundation for how algorithms of all levels of sophistication can work in harmony with society.”
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Alongside experts from Mind Foundry and Aioi Nissay Dowa, the Aioi R&D Lab - Oxford is supported by an advisory board of world-renowned professors from the University of Oxford with expertise across many disciplines that sit at the heart of the transformations facing society, and insurance in particular, over the coming decades. Current advisors include:
Professor Baroness Kathy Willis from the Department of Biology,
Professor Michael Wooldridge from the Department of Computer Science,
Professor Malcolm McCulloch from the Department of Engineering Science and
Professor Paul Newman of the Oxford Robotics Institute.
The first Advisory Board Meeting happened in March 2023. Future meetings will occur throughout the year to ensure that experts from Industry and Academia work in partnership to deliver responsible, digital solutions that can have the biggest impact.
Left to right: Professor Michael Wooldridge, Professor Baroness Kathy Willis, Mind Foundry CEO Brian Mullins.
This concept of using technology as a tool for creating products and services that create value and common good throughout society is what Keisuke Niiro, President at Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance, calls ‘Creating Shared Value by Digital Transformation (CSV by DX).’ In his speech at the Lab's launch event last December, Niiro expanded on this theme of CSV by DX by saying, "We must create shared value with society and provide solutions to specific challenges faced by society and local communities. To do so, we need to evolve insurance and the services it offers."
The launch of the Aioi R&D Lab – Oxford represents a significant step forward for Aioi Nissay Dowa’s innovation strategy and corporate social value mission. In an interview with Insurance Post, Michael Kainzbauer, Group CEO at Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Europe, added, "We have made a long-term commitment to invest in cutting-edge innovation in the development of new insurance models, products and services – not just for our own benefit, but to create a shared value that solves social and community issues across all parts of society. Insurance is pivotal to mitigating and protecting people from the impact of some of the biggest issues facing our planet and our populations, and we are excited to be working with Mind Foundry to take some big strides towards practical solutions that will drive change at a massive scale."
Professor Stephen Roberts added, "We want to understand the societal impact – not just of insurance, but of risk, environment, and sustainability – and form a foundation for how algorithms of all levels of sophistication can work in harmony with society.”
Responsible AI in high-stakes applications
Mind Foundry's responsible approach to AI is an important part of the Lab's work and was recently featured in an interview with Fortune Magazine about AI in high-stakes applications. In "Generative AI Isn't Ready for High-stakes Applications", Jeremy Kahn describes why the deep learning solutions that have driven much of AI's growth over the last decade are not ready to be used in some of the most challenging problems. Their propensity to "hallucinate" can lead to faulty predictions that can be particularly harmful when someone's life is on the line. "That's why they are absolutely not appropriate in high-stakes," says Mind Foundry CEO, Brian Mullins, "There's too much potential for unforeseen failure modes."
Mind Foundry's AI, in contrast, has the benefit of being far more transparent about how it works and the reasons behind the predictions and decisions it is making. This responsible approach to AI is at the heart of the Lab's work.
Together, by design
The logo for the Lab was designed to capture the spirit of innovation and social change that are central to the Lab’s mission. From the left side of the logo, we see three white streams merge and become one, leading to the future. These three streams represent social challenges, responsible AI, and the potential of insurance to be a force for good in the world. They also represent Oxford, Mind Foundry, and Aioi. With these three streams coming together in the Lab, we can create shared value through digital transformation and spread this value across the globe.
The shape of the streams is also significant. They resemble the waves seen in Bayesian statistical graphs, where probability expresses a degree of belief in an event. Bayesian methods are at the heart of many of Mind Foundry's solutions. They have the benefit of being far more transparent about how they work and why they provide the predictions or classifications they are making. Whether it's being performed by humans or AI, by quantifying our uncertainty about the knowledge we possess, we can achieve a sort of wisdom and humility that is greatly needed to tackle today's most important problems responsibly.
Shaping the future
The Lab is based in Oxford, England, where it will benefit from, but also add to the city's rich history of research and innovation in AI. "Insurance was born in the UK, and breakthroughs of many kinds have their origin here, so it's the perfect place for our new hub of innovation," says Keisuke Niiro, President at Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance.
Though the ambitions of the Lab are large and far-reaching, they are also necessary. The social challenges the world faces now are all urgent and significant. By combining the capabilities of the University of Oxford, the advanced AI of Mind Foundry, and the insurance potential of Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance, we can solve the world's most important problems.
This "can-do attitude", paired with the spirit of collaboration, is captured beautifully in a Japanese word that may be new to most readers. Yarouze. It means ‘let's do it together.’
Creating the future. Instead of watching it from the sidelines. That's what happens when partners share a vision to change the world and commit to it.