The Oxford AI for Business Project

Saïd Business School
4 min readOct 29, 2021

How many times a user hits backspace when typing their social security number is a good predictor of fraud or loan default — as is whether you’ve ever posted on Facebook about being drunk.

Should that information be used by banks?

Data scientists at a UK supermarket can identify early-stage cancers from store card use — through changes to shopping baskets — even before people themselves know.

What should they do with that information?

Scientists at UC, Berkeley, found most online images tagged as “bedroom” are staged and depict a made bed from 2–3 meters away. Trained on that dataset, computer vision has problems recognising real bedrooms.

What does that say about the accuracy of facial recognition for law enforcement?

Beethoven didn’t finish his 10th Symphony — but last month, AI did it for him. It has also written Hemingway letters, produced Nirvana songs Kurt Cobain didn’t sing, and painted Rembrandts.

What does that mean for creativity?

Such are the artefacts of a decade in which Artificial Intelligence is being applied to almost every walk of life and business, from Aerodynamics to crowd planning in Zoos.

But to understand AI in any industry, managers need to get back to the basics; to the statistical substance that underpins machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, neural networks and all the other facets of one of the world’s fastest moving technologies.

What is the purpose of prediction? Where does a firm use prediction? What mathematical approaches should underpin it? Senior managers need to get to grips with a fast-moving science — in which Chinese researchers alone have published 76,000 academic papers in the past 5 years.

To help build that understanding, a year ago, we launched our Oxford Postgraduate Diploma in AI for Business.

This is a year-long Oxford University degree programme on Artificial Intelligence for the commercial or public sector manager, who needs to understand the opportunities and risks of one of the defining technologies of the decade, if not the century.

The course has developed fast, and we are just now bringing in our third cohort of students from around the world to go through the programme. The first are about to finish.

The course is built on delivery by Oxford academic lecturers — say, on deep learning and neural networks — and on vivid illustration by dozens of guests from around the world.

These range from MedTech entrepreneurs to data scientists, from AI ‘thinkers’ to researchers in some of the hardest problems in logistics: like the famously hard-to-solve mathematical ‘travelling salesman’ problem at scale.

In the public sector, we’ve had contributions from the recently departed boss of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and from the UK Office for Artificial Intelligence.

From a leading communications agency, an executive said: “I call this an inflection point, because when we look across to everything that we do not just even in my role, but data science, engineering, AI — all of these things are increasingly important for the future where PR and comms go.”

From one of the main platform companies, a leader talked about using machine learning to analyse massive amounts of videos to extract best practice. “You can go really broad with ML and get a lot of insights. I could be launching a makeup lipstick brand and I can say ‘I want you to analyse 100,000 lipstick commercials, in an hour.’”

A designer who creates futuristic AI designs for some of the biggest Hollywood film franchises said: “That fictional realisation of the technology plays into the real world; we’ll have creatives that are on a feature film, and then they’ll drop onto a real-world in- car experience that has to be extremely functional because it’s all about human safety. And the same rules apply.”

We’re aiming to showcase and explore the very best in industry research and guests, so that both current students and alumni can participate together in our investigation into and understanding of AI. We want the learning to outlast graduation, and to build a community of the AI-interested.

WORDS: Dr Alex Connock, Co-Director, Oxford Artificial Intelligence for Business programme

To find out more about the Oxford Executive Diploma in Artificial Intelligence for Business:

Download the programme brochure

Arrange a call to discuss your eligibility



Saïd Business School

At Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, we create business leaders who lead with purpose.