UCL Campaign


Deepmind Technologies: long-lasting relationships for future generations

“UCL really deserves recognition on the international stage for all the fantastic work that it does.”

Demis Hassabis and Shane Legg

23 May 2019

Investing in people with diverse backgrounds and interests can set them on new paths. My scholarship opened my mind to possibilities that I never imagined. It’s not just about getting a foot in the door, but having support and a sense of community that can empower you to thrive once you’re through. I think that’s what makes the DeepMind Scholarship Programme with UCL so special. It’s great to be collaborating on these efforts with an institution so deeply intertwined with DeepMind.” – Lila Ibrahim, Chief Operating Officer of DeepMind speaking at the UCL Scholarships and Bursaries Reception, 2019.

Lila Ibrahim
UCL was founded on the principle of equal access to education for all, and we have always championed a pioneering approach to learning. Our alumni have gone on to change the way we look at the world, with era-defining innovation and groundbreaking research. To see this in action, we need only look to the development of one of UCL’s key philanthropic partners, DeepMind.

DeepMind has become one of the world’s most renowned AI companies, gaining global attention in 2016 when its self-learning computer program AlphaGo took on a human grand master of the complex Chinese game Go and won four games out of five. With its roots firmly at UCL, DeepMind is now giving back to future minds who are starting their journey here.

“UCL really deserves recognition on the international stage for all the fantastic work that it does.”

UCL alumni and DeepMind co-founders Demis Hassabis and Shane Legg launched the company in London in 2010 alongside Mustafa Suleyman. Hassabis grew up in North London and, following a degree in Computer Science from Cambridge University, obtained his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from UCL in 2009.

The startup was acquired by Google in 2014, and aims to meld insights from neuroscience and machine learning with new developments in computing hardware to unlock increasingly powerful general-purpose learning algorithms that will work towards the creation of an artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Funding scholarships

Demis believes that giving back to the place that inspired his own career path is a crucial part of DeepMind’s development and their partnership with UCL is diverse and wide reaching. He says: “In many ways, DeepMind's story is intertwined with UCL – meeting my co-founder Shane Legg as postdocs in the Gatsby unit in 2009 was a pivotal moment, and UCL has held a special significance for us ever since.”  

Scholarships have a transformative power and the team at DeepMind recognise this. They’ve funded a number of scholarships within computational science giving opportunity to individuals from all sections of community, particularly those that are under-represented in post-graduate studies. In 2018, the organisation announced funding towards a new professorship at UCL - the DeepMind Chair in AI - as well as three research positions. These new positions enhance the universities capabilities and world-class reputation in this fast-changing field.

Demis says:

We’ve sponsored PhD scholarships at UCL and this year we will be teaching on a new module for the MSc Machine Learning that focuses on the latest technology we’re developing in the industry and hopefully training the next generation of innovators. UCL has amazing connections with industry, and translates all the incredible research that is going on into real world solutions.”  

Celebrating our donors

In recognition of transformational philanthropy at UCL, on the 23rd May, UCL is unveiling its new Donor Wall at the heart of its Bloomsbury campus.

This striking art installation has been created by Slade School of Fine Art graduate, Dr Sarah Fortais, and will feature the hands of over 60 of the university’s most generous donors cast in aluminium and bronze. These donors are members of the UCL Circle of Benefactors who have supported UCL with transformational giving over £1 million in areas such as cancer research, neuroscience, scholarships and more.

The occasion will also celebrate UCL’s It’s All Academic Campaign reaching the £525m milestone ahead of schedule and bringing us closer to our £600m goal.