UCL spinout joins world’s largest advertising group

Technology company Satalia Ltd, a UCL spinout that provides artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to some of the globe’s biggest businesses, has been acquired by WPP, the multinational advertising and creative group.

The acquisition will see Satalia, whose award-winning AI technology helps optimise business efficiency, join WPP’s Wunderman Thompson agency, which provides marketing communications services across the world, including consultancy, creative support and technology.

Satalia Ltd is a spinout from UCL Computer Science, founded by Dr Daniel Hulme in 2008, and a global leader in enterprise AI. It is one of the UK’s fastest-growing tech companies, whose clients include BT, DFS, DS Smith, PwC, Gigaclear, Tesco and Unilever. It has strong expertise in combining machine learning and business optimisation, from supply chain logistics to human resources.

Dr Hulme, who holds a PhD in AI from UCL and is currently the department’s Entrepreneur in Residence, will become WPP’s Chief AI Officer and will work closely with WPP’s Chief Technology Officer and its agencies to promote AI capabilities across the company.

Dr Steven Schooling, Director, Engineering and Physical Sciences, UCL Business said: "We are proud to have supported Dr Daniel Hulme and Satalia from the start of their journey when "AI" was not the commonly known term that it is today, through to today’s announcement. UCL Business’s purpose is to maximise the real-world impact of the skills, knowledge and vision of UCL’s researchers.

"Satalia’s acquisition by WPP is a prime example of the particularly huge potential in our early career researcher base where the entrepreneurial environment of UCL and the business support infrastructure provided by the UCLB team helps such talent reach fruition. We are delighted that the Satalia team will now go on to play a key role in driving the future growth and technology leadership of one of UK Plc’s most famous companies."

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: "Satalia’s acquisition by WPP demonstrates how UCL’s world-leading AI research and innovation is shaping the future of automation and machine intelligence, at the heart of a global city. This deal represents recognition of the leading nature of Satalia’s work and WPP’s global reach and resources can only amplify its impact."

In 2019 UCL launched the Centre for Artificial Intelligence to strengthen the institution’s foundational AI research, delivering the UKRI-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Foundational Artificial Intelligence. UCL is also host to the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI-enabled Healthcare Systems.

In addition to Satalia, previous world-leading AI companies to have emerged from UCL’s research community include Google Deepmind and Bloomsbury.AI, which joined Facebook in London in 2018. UCLB also operates Portico Ventures, a framework designed to help researchers set up technology-based businesses in fields such as AI that can thrive in a fast-moving ecosystem by allowing for a template licence and equity consideration for IP for non-patentable, high growth spinout opportunities.


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