The Poaching of the Top Computer Science Brains in the UK

The hiring of professors in computer science by big technology companies is worrying. Warwick University’s King’s Cross campus in London, fears the poaching of the best computer scientists in UK universities by US groups such as Google, Uber and Amazon is threatening the ability of Britain to build on a world leading position in machine learning.

Salary is one of the reasons why computer science lecturers are leaving academia to tech companies. The lecturers are offered huge salaries, around four times as much [as in universities]. The question is who will train future researchers and who owns the knowledge that is being produced?

Last month, the British government unveiled plans to invest up to £300 million in AI research to nurture the status of the country as Europe’s center for machine learning. Although the fund will not provide university academics with wages to match those at big technology companies, it should make AI research in British colleges and universities more attractive and possibly improve its quality.

During the past two years, professors who have left for big tech companies include Neil Lawrence, professor of machine learning at Sheffield university, hired by Amazon to be its director of machine learning; Murray Shanahan, professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London, recruited as senior research scientist at Google’s DeepMind unit; and Zoubin Ghahramani, professor of information engineering at Cambridge university, employed as Uber’s chief scientist.


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