Science Blast

A series of events on improving the human condition.

The mission of IRCAI is to advance AI research in sustainable development, aiming to improve the human condition. With this goal in mind, we extend an invitation to the AI in SDGs research community, policymakers, and companies to join and “self-organise” small online workshops. These workshops are designed to explore research themes related to various aspects of our shared vision. We are committed to assisting our colleagues in their interdisciplinary collaborations, providing support through our infrastructure, and leveraging our capabilities to the fullest extent possible.


Location: Live Digital Event
Date: 17 March 2022, 02:00 PM London (GMT+0:00)
Video: Link to video

We are proud to announce that this year’s awardee is Adriana-Eufrosina Bora, PhD Candidate at the Centre for Data Science, School of Mathematical Sciences at Queensland University of Technology, for her work in Project AIMS (Artificial Intelligence against Modern Slavery).

This project contributes directly to UN SDG Target 8.7 “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

This event will focus on:

1. The announcement of the 2021 Annual IRCAI Award to Ms. Adriana-Eufrosina Bora for her important and valuable work on AI to address modern slavery¹ (i.e. an application of AI to address UN SDG 8, Target 8.7).

2. Round table on Artificial Intelligence (AI) against Modern Slavery – a case study for SDG 8 addressing the challenges and opportunities for the use of AI in progressing towards the SDGs. The round table will focus on Project AIMS² (Artificial Intelligence against Modern Slavery) and how it can assist diverse stakeholders, including businesses, governments, investors, academics, procurement specialists, and ESG analysts, to contribute towards the eradication of modern slavery under the framework of the SDGs 8, Target 8.7.

The round table will discuss: Where do we go from here, and how do we ensure that AI is used effectively to hold businesses accountable for eradicating modern slavery from global supply chains? The panelists will present their long-term vision for the tool’s local and international impact. The discussion will frame the case for a Proof of Concept (POC) and the key questions that need to be resolved in the next phase of the project. Concrete use cases will be addressed, highlighting the key stakeholders’ journey as users of this tool and how it will assist them in reaching impact and in ensuring accountability at scale.

The panelists will share insights they have gleaned through the process of working on Project AIMS and from the field of anti-modern slavery work and machine learning. The diverse, multi-disciplinary stakeholder panel is a testament to the breadth of knowledge and expertise that Project AIMS has assembled and feels is necessary to create a successful AI solution in the context of such a complex socio-economic issue.


1.50 – 2:00  Login and coffee

2.00 – 2:20  Introduction

Opening and Introduction 3 minutes each:

  • John Shawe-Taylor, Director IRCAI
  • Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu, Permanent Delegate of Romania to UNESCO
  • Prateek Sibal, Programme Specialist, Digital Innovation and Transformation Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO
  • Claire Healy, Research Officer, Crime Research Section, UNODC

Introduction into the Award 2 minutes each:

  • Davor Orlic, Chief Operations Officer, IRCAI
  • Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, The Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

2.20 – 2:30  Presentation 1

Keynote Speech 

  • Adriana-Eufrosina Bora, AI and Modern Slavery Researcher at Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

2.30 – 3:15  Presentation 2

Round table on Artificial Intelligence for Monitoring Sustainable Development 


  • Davor Orlic, Chief Operations Officer, IRCAI

Speakers and projects, 2 questions each and debate:

  • Yolanda Lannquist, Head of Research & Advisory, The Future Society
  • Katharine Bryant, Head of Policy and Programs Walk Free
  • Laureen van Breen, Managing Director, WikiRate
  • Allison Cohen, Applied AI Lead, AI for Humanity, Mila

3.15 – 3:20  Presentation 3


  • Davor Orlic, COO IRCAI announcing:

3.30 – 4:30  Presentation 4

A virtual Press Conference will be organised after the event with speakers available for questions:

  • Ms. Adriana-Eufrosina Bora, Award Winner 2021
  • Davor Orlic, Chief Operations Officer, IRCAI
  • Prateek Sibal, Digital Innovation and Transformation Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO

¹ Cabinet Office Modern Slavery statement

² Description of the AI components used in AIMS project



Katharine Bryant is Head of Policy and Programs at Walk Free and co-author of the Global Slavery Index (GSI). She oversees Walk Free’s program focused on, ‘what works?’ to combat modern slavery, including the eradication of the exploitation of women and girls. She has worked in counter trafficking and anti-slavery programming and research for the past decade.

Yolanda Lannquist is Head of Research & Advisory at The Future Society (TFS), a nonprofit with the mission to advance the responsible adoption of AI and emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity. She leads projects focused on responsible AI adoption for nonprofits, organizations and governments, including national AI strategies for inclusive and sustainable development. She also leads AI policy research & advisory projects for international organizations including GIZ, OECD, World Bank Digital Development and the Global Partnership on AI. Yolanda is appointed to the OECD AI Policy Observatory’s expert group on Implementing Trustworthy AI (ONE TAI) and taught AI policy at IE University in Madrid. Yolanda has a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University and Bachelors with honors in Economics and European Studies from Columbia University.

Laureen van Breen is WikiRate’s Managing Director. Coming from the Netherlands, she joined the WikiRate team in Berlin in 2016. She leads the organization, overseeing its operations, developing and implementing its strategy, setting up organizational structures, advocating for open data practices, and securing funding that enables the organization to flourish. Her academic background is in Social & Cultural Anthropology.

Allison Cohen is the Applied AI Projects Lead at Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute. In this role, Allison works closely with AI researchers, collaborators and funding partners to develop socially beneficial AI projects and maximize their social impact. Allison has a background in International Development and Global Affairs and has worked with the governments of Canada and Sri Lanka.

Dr. Claire Healy is Research Officer at the UNODC Crime Research Section, coordinating the UNODC Observatory on Smuggling of Migrants and conducting research, data collection and analysis on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. She was previously Senior Advisor and Research Officer on Trafficking in Persons at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and conducted policy-orientated research on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and migration in West Africa, South America, the Middle East and Europe. She also worked as Advisor to the Portuguese Government’s High Commission on Migration, and as Research Consultant for various migration-related NGOs in Dublin, Ireland. Claire is originally from Ireland, and holds a PhD in Migration History, awarded by the National University of Ireland in 2006. She has also worked as a translator and is fluent in English, Gaelic, Portuguese, German, Spanish and French.

Prateek Sibal is programme specialist in the Digital Innovation and Transformation Section of the Communication and Information Sector at UNESCO. In this framework, he coordinates the Communication and Information Sector’s work on artificial intelligence and digital transformation. His work spans research, advocacy for human centered AI, policy advice and development of human and institutional capacities for the governance of digital technologies. He teaches Digital Government at Sciences Po, Paris.

Kerrie Mengersen is a Distinguished Professor of Statistics and Director of the Centre for Data Science at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and a member of the Australian Data Science Network. Her research interests focus on developing statistical methods and associated computational algorithms, to analyse new sources of data and derive new insights into complex real-world challenges. Kerrie is an elected member of the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia, and the Queensland Academy of the Arts and Sciences. She is also an executive member of the International Statistical Institute and the International Biometrics Society, and a past President of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis. In 2016 Professor Mengersen becomes the first woman to receive the Statistical Society of Australia’s Pitman Medal, the highest award presented by the Society. Kerrie has supervised graduate students with a wide range of statistical interests, including theoretical and computational statistics, machine learning and AI, and applications in health, environment, business, social systems and social good. Kerrie is the principal supervisor of Adriana’s PhD.




The Future Society (TFS) is a leading non-profit organization focused on the governance of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Its mission is to advance the responsible adoption of AI and other emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity. The Future Society adopted the prototype built by Adriana and launched Project AIMS in partnership with Walk Free. The Future Society pioneered the development of machine learning in benchmarking the businesses’ reports, by engaging a community of technical experts from across the globe. The Future Society is supporting the fight against modern slavery and hosting the open-source GitHub of Project AIMS. The Future Society remains a key knowledge partner in the development of this research.

Walk Free is an international human rights group focusing on accelerating the eradication of modern slavery, in all its forms. Adriana joined Walk Free in 2018 for a short internship and presented her master’s research to use AI to read and benchmark business reports on modern slavery. Walk Free suggested integrating the development of a prototype to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to benchmark the statements produced by companies under Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act. Once the first iteration of the prototype was ready, Walk Free and The Future Society established Project AIMS (AI against Modern Slavery), which invested in scaling the research and building a solution to unlock the information contained within the business statements. Walk Free remains a key knowledge partner in the future development of Project AIMS.


WikiRate is the largest open source registry of ESG data in the world with more than 3 million data points for over 100,000 companies. By bringing this information together in one place, and making it accessible, comparable and free for all, WikiRate aims to provide society with the tools and evidence needed to spur companies to respond to the world’s social and environmental challenges. WikiRate has been working closely with Project AIMS to develop the first explorations on binary, multi-class and multi-label classification algorithms. In this work, WikiRate is a key knowledge partner that provides the open repository which hosts the labelled data used in Project AIMS. Going forward, WikiRate remains a key knowledge partner in the development of Project AIMS.


Mila- Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute is the world’s largest academic research center in machine learning. Its mission is to be a global pole for scientific advances that inspire innovation and the development of AI for the benefit of all. Mila initially conducted a thorough algorithmic evaluation of Project AIMS. Building upon this collaboration, the research and development of Project AIMS will now continue in partnership with Mila’s AI for Humanity department, whose mission is to support the development of socially beneficial and impactful AI research and applications. This team provides the in-house Project Management skills to facilitate a robust, interdisciplinary, and responsible approach to this work. Furthermore, Mila’s team of Applied Machine Learning experts hope to continue ensuring the quality of Project AIMS’ ML functionality, bolstering the accuracy and reliability of the tool’s algorithms. Mila is convinced that Project AIMS offers a promising example of the ways in which AI and public policy should work together to create social change.


      Location: UCL AI Centre, London
      Date: 30 November 2021
      Time: 11h00 – 13h00 GMT
      Registration: instructions to be provided by invitation

      The Delegation of the European Union to the UK and the Embassy of Slovenia to the UK have joined forces with IRCAI to organise a field visit for the EU member States Digital Counsellors to the UCL Artificial Intelligence Centre. Organised as part of the EU Delegation activities in cooperation with the Slovenian Presidency to the EU.

      The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Slovenian Presidency and the International Research Center Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) have joined forces to organize a number of events in close cooperation with Slovenian embassies and other permanent representatives in at least 15 countries around the world. The aim of this effort is to set an active agenda for AI during the Slovenian Presidency and to provide a basis for continuing and promoting bilateral discussions in the field of AI and sustainable development beyond the Presidency.

      The Delegation of the European Union to the United Kingdom, opened in February 2020. The Delegation of the European Union (EU) in the UK is one of the 143 diplomatic representations of the EU around the world. It has been established following the United Kingdom’s (UK) withdrawal from the EU to promote EU policies in the UK by engaging with Her Majesty’s Government, political actors, the media, academia, business, the civil society and the wider British public. They analyse and report on the political, social, and economic situation in the UK to headquarters in Brussels and assist shaping the future EU-UK relations. Together with the embassies of EU Member States they also raise awareness on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

      The UCL Artificial Intelligence Center and International Research Center Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) will co-host a visit to UCLs facilities in London by EU Member States Digital Counsellors delegation of EU. Slovenia currently holds the presidency of the European Council and is also a funder to International Research Center Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI). The delegation will visit UCL Artificial Intelligence Centre’s facilities in Holborn. UCL also holds the UNESCO Chair in Artificial Intelligence and within its current remit the chairholder John Shawe-Taylor is also director of IRCAI.

      – Promote the UCL AI Centre and IRCAI Centre to senior diplomats in the EU Delegation and EU member states in London
      – Present tangible results in AI to EU Member States counsellors in London with an interest in Digital affairs and AI
      – Create positive/enthusiasm for AI with the EU delegates
      – Create a report to be uploaded into the IRCAI library

      11:00 – 11:30 GMT – Welcome
      Opening and Introduction
      David Barber on UCL AI Centre
      John Shawe-Taylor on IRCAI Centr
      Benjamin Guedj on Inria London Programme at UCL
      Beatrice Covassi, Minister Counsellor, EU Delegation to the UK

      Overview of the field and current topics in UCL AI Centre and IRCAI Centre to EU member states
      – Current work and Challenges
      – Reach and Research and Development
      – Future Plans

      11:30 – 12:00 GMT – Presentation 1
      Presentations on tangible real-life use of AI in solving COVID-19
      Delmiro Fernandez-Reyes

      Key topics presented:

      Key advances in AI technology for Healthcare
      – Impacts on humans/society
      – Global South and vaccinations
      – Improved technology for vaccine development

      12:00 – 12:30 GMT – Presentation 2
      Presentations on tangible real-life use of AI in solving decarbonisation
      Aidan O’Sullivan

      Key topics presented:
      – Innovative research in AI technology for Climate Change
      – Achieving make net-zero a reality
      – State-of-the-art artificial intelligence to leverage opportunities for energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries
      – Re-engineering for the way societies produce and consume

      12:30 – 13:00 GMT – Networking reception offered by the Embassy of Slovenia in the UK

      David Barber – is the Director of the UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Director of the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Foundational AI. His main research interests are in probabilistic modelling approaches to AI and Machine Learning, multisensory integration, aging, and applied research on display technology, eye tracking device, affective computing, and AI/robots.

      John Shawe-Taylor is UNESCO Chair for Artificial Intelligence at UCL, Director of the International Research Center Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI). He as contributed to a number of fields ranging from mathematics of graph theory through cryptography to statistical learning theory and its applications. His main contributions have been the developing of principled analysis of machine learning and the coordination of European Networks of excellence that were influential in promoting the uptake of machine learning and AI in both research and commercial application.

      Delmiro Fernandez-Reyes is the Chair of the Programme Committee for AI and Healthcare at IRCAI. Professor of Biomedical Computing at UCL Department of Computer Science and Adjunct Prof. in Paediatrics at the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan (COMUI) Nigeria. He founded the UCL – University of Ibadan African Computational Sciences Centre for Health and Development (ACSC4HD). He leads work focuses on AI approaches and research in the biomedical and healthcare domain to tackle global health challenges and sustainable provision of healthcare. Currently he is focused on a COVID-19 scalable population level integrative vaccine development programme.

      Aidan O’Sullivan is the Chair of the Programme Committee for AI and Climate Change at IRCAI, and Associate Professor in Energy and Artificial Intelligence at UCL Energy Institute where he leads the Energy Systems and Artificial Intelligence Lab and the department’s Data Analytics Research theme. He is also the founding course director for the Energy Systems and Data Analytics MSc, an innovative programme that combines the study of energy systems and sustainability with data science and machine learning.

      Benjamin Guedj is director of the Inria London Programme, a joint structure to foster scientific collaboration between Inria and University College London as part of a strategic France-UK partnership. He has broad interests in statistical learning theory and machine learning, with a focus on PAC-Bayes learning, computational statistics, generalisation bounds for deep learning, data-efficient machine learning.


      International Research Centre
      on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI)
      under the auspices of UNESCO 

      Jožef Stefan Institute
      Jamova cesta 39
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