Fundamentals of AI for Business

Published in Dec 16, 2020

Last Autumn we were pleased to welcome the second cohort of DMS startups to a 6-week online course called “Fundamentals of AI for business”, developed by leading academics at the Southampton Data Science Academy. This post provides a summary of the topics covered in the course and the deeper insights developed by DMS participants when exploring the deployment of AI in their companies. Organisational processes that can benefit from AI include internal operations, quality of analytic product offerings and customer service, among others. If you are curious to learn more about the essential data science and AI skills needed in business today, we hope you will enjoy this post!

Technical skills

There are a number of specialist areas in AI that can be applied to business. The “Fundamentals of AI for Business” course covered the following modules:

  • Introduction to AI & Machine Learning (the history of AI ‘winters’ and ‘summers’)
  • Learning to know your customers through Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  • Enhancing the customer experience through Natural Language Generation (NLG) (e.g. chatbots and automated newsletters)
  • Search and Data Mining (e.g. to identify patterns and make product recommendations)
  • Computer vision (e.g. facial recognition, driverless cars, medical imaging, gaming)
  • Future of AI (and the importance of establishing ethical frameworks)

Interdisciplinary thinking

The topics listed above have relevance for technical as well as non-technical experts. DMS participants come from a variety of backgrounds and businesses sectors, covering areas such as healthcare, smart cities, agriculture and the Internet of Things (IoT), in addition to AI and machine learning. Managers must work across departments with field specialists, developers and data scientists, drawing on their specific backgrounds and expertise to collaboratively solve business challenges using AI. To capitalise on the expertise across all parts of their organisation, it is essential that individuals from varied backgrounds have a basic high-level understanding of the technical approaches, concepts and communication language used in AI. DMS participants strengthened their skills in this area through training materials and written case studies that encouraged them to think deeply about the implementation of AI in their own organisations.


In addition to considering the impact of AI on business and productivity, it is wonderful to see the level of engagement demonstrated by DMS startups who raised critical questions related to ethics throughout the course. A number of startups are directly working with personal data or trying to create privacy preserving technologies that are beneficial for the users and owners of data platforms. DMS participants also have a deep and poignant understanding of challenges around bias and discrimination in AI, as well as the possible impact of automation on human labour. To this end, this year’s participants have been thinking about new ways to create meaningful human work within the AI economy and to ensure a positive effect on society over the long term.

It has been a great pleasure to witness the enthusiasm, creativity and social responsibility with which DMS startups are approaching the deployment of AI in their businesses. We want to thank all participants for their active engagement and discussions throughout the course, and wish them the best of luck in all their endeavours!



Header picture by Christina MorilloPexels