Annual Lecture 2017 – Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Machines

19 June @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm, Central Leeds

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Each year the Digital Leaders Programme has included a Lecture, given by a leading technologist on an important issue of our time. Previously held in London, this year the Annual Lecture moved out of London as part of Digital Leaders Week to Leeds.

Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Machines

As a self-professed non-expert on AI, businessman, civil servant and technologist Rob Wilmot – from an informed, layman’s perspective – shared his thoughts and observations on the opportunities and threats that AI brings to all our lives. In this lecture, Rob explored the potential immediate and future impacts on society of the rise of AI. From self-driving cars that, in the moments before an impending accident, decide who lives and dies, to medical bots that help extend human life via machine learning, Rob guided us through the rapidly accelerating breakthroughs in AI and the ethical challenges that its practical applications face us with.

Rob Wilmot @robwilmot

Rob has had an unusual and diverse career. In 1998 he was one of the three founding executives of Freeserve, launched by the retailer Dixon. Freeserve became the UK’s largest ISP in just three months and floated on the London Stock Exchanged after only nine months with a market cap of £1.6 billion – entering the FTSE 100 and peaking at a market cap of £9 billion. At the age of 29, Rob found himself one of the youngest ever executive officers of a FTSE 100 company. Dixons sold Freeserve to France Telecom for £1.6 billion in 2001, when Rob exited the company. Since then he’s founded and invested in a number of businesses. He is currently CEO of his most recent venture, Crowdicity. With offices in London, Nottingham and Sydney, Crowdicity provides an award winning idea management platform that allows organisations to bring individuals together online to source, refine and select ideas, insights and opinions from employees, partners and consumers.

Rob is also partner and chairman of bcsAgency, a marketing and communications agency and is a non-executive director of the Crown Commercial Service, an executive agency sponsored by the Cabinet Office which provides commercial services to the public sector and saves money for the taxpayer. He also recently completed his two-year tenure as HM Government’s Crown Commercial Representative for Software. Working out of the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, he was responsible for resetting relationships with IBM, Oracle and Microsoft and developing commercial capability across government departments; bringing at risk project back in track and driving over a billion pounds in savings through the renegotiation of key government contracts.

Rob was recently made an entrepreneur in residence at the University of York where he is helping with the commercialisation of research, including AI and machine learning. In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford (his alma mater) for his contribution to work of the university in the field of the Internet. He has also held a number of key roles in further education, including being invited in as Chair to lead the turn-around of the failing Doncaster College, which returned to financial health and achieved the status of Good in its Ofsted inspection after 7 years of hard work. In 2013 Rob was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for his work in education.

This Year’s Annual Lecture Panel

Following the lecture a panel of A.I. experts joined Rob Wilmot on stage to discuss the lecture and take questions from the audience.

The Lecture panellists (pictured left to right): Annual Lecture Chair Tom Riordan, CEO of Leeds City Council, Sarah Burnett, Vice President of Research at Everest Group, Chris Williams, Technical Leader IBM Watson Group, and Professor David Hogg, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Leeds.

Running Order

  • 6pm Welcome
  • 6.15pm Lecture
  • 7pm Panel Discussion
  • 7.45pm  Networking Reception


The Lecture was held at the magnificent Salem Chapel, home of AQL, which in its former role as a Methodist Chapel is claimed to be the birthplace of Leeds United FC. The lecture will be followed by a celebratory networking event.

This is a DL Yorkshire event

This annual lecture was made possible with the support of AQL

To find more photos of the event, click here.