The UK government plan to raise commercial awareness of neural computing, the Neural Computing Technology Transfer programme, is approaching the end of its three-year campaign, and the UK Department of Trade & Industry, in charge of the initiative, is pretty pleased with the results. As yet, the Department has no figures to prove how many […]
The UK government plan to raise commercial awareness of neural computing, the Neural Computing Technology Transfer programme, is approaching the end of its three-year campaign, and the UK Department of Trade & Industry, in charge of the initiative, is pretty pleased with the results. As yet, the Department has no figures to prove how many people have developed applications since the exercise began, but project leader Ray Browne believes it has achieved its goals. The Department took the initiative because it believed neural computing was a good idea that had not achieved its market potential. The Department decided the UK had all the necessary attributes – academic expertise, a computer-literate user force, good suppliers and many applications that would benefit from the technology. The project was designed to show potential users the types of applications suited to neural computing and how to develop them. Following a mid-point survey last year that sampled from the 10,000 people who had registered with the department to indicate their interest in the subject, the department found that more than 70% of respondents had a reasonable awareness of neural computing. This helped it decide to extend the original campaign to more in-depth training and applications advice. It launched a NeuroComputing Web page, aimed at enhancing the industry’s awareness, understanding and adoption of neural computing. The service was developed by Aberdeen-based Global Web Ltd and offers much of the information gathered and created since the project began. It claims to contain some 1,400 pages, including on-line tutorials, publications, information about events and user clubs. Global Web has actually used neural networking to help set up appropriate Hypertext links. By showing the type of linking that would interest a user, the network starts to point to other logical links and the company has used this to develop the service. But this is not yet used dynamically to create an ever-changing set of links, it is still just a development tool for the company. In a further educational initiative, the York Electronics Centre of York University and the Institute of Electrical Engineers have produced a video learning course, Neural Computing, described as an ‘introduction to the principles with application examples’. It costs ú100 per module, or ú350 for all four. With the Department’s project finishing at the end of the year, it is about to commission a survey from accounting and consultancy firm Touche Ross & Co. This will attempt to show case studies of applications using the technology, give statistics on numbers of companies by business sector interested in using it, and discuss new and future developments. It has been described as an ‘exit’ strategy, but the Department choses to see itself ‘passing on the baton’ rather than bowing out, and hopes that the Neural Computing Applications Forum will take over at the end of the year. So has the programme been successful? Yes, and Browne reckons it can be demonstrated in the fact that the commercial world has now taken up the cause, organising its own conferences and seminars on the subject. He said the Department had opened neural computing up to the market and would now let the market take over.