Skip to main content

Unit information: Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence
Unit code EMATM0029
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hauert
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Engineering Mathematics
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


Nature has found clever solutions for the design of intelligent systems. Chemical networks, cells, brains and societies are able to self-organise to perform seemingly complex tasks. These behaviours result from evolution, development, and learning.

With this course we aim to take inspiration from nature to engineer intelligent systems for real-world applications. Each lecture looks at a biological system and extracts basic principles that can be implemented in reality. Topics covered include neural networks, machine learning, artificial evolution, cellular systems, DNA computing, swarm intelligence, and bio-inspired robotics.

This class is taught using a flipped classroom methodology, meaning 1h lectures are watched at home in preparation for the course, and class-time is dedicated to hands-on activities and discussions including group work, pen and paper exercises, live-coding, and startup pitching.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the unit students will be able to;

  1. Explain the benefits and limitations of bio-inspired approaches.
  2. Extract basic principles from intelligent systems in nature that can be applied to engineering.
  3. Apply bio-inspired AI to engineer solutions for real world applications.
  4. Use insight from engineered systems to improve understanding of natural systems.
  5. Build and pitch a startup idea in artificial intelligence.

Teaching details

20 Hands-on class-room activities
10 x 1hr Lecture preparation

Assessment Details

30% Exercise hand-in

Students will need to hand in an exercise sheet done during the 2-hour hands-on classroom activities, on six occasions. It is expected that the material can be fully completed in class. Each hand-in is worth 5% of the mark for a total of 30%. (ILO 1-5)

70% Startup pitch and report

For the startup pitch and report, groups are expected to prepare a 3min startup pitch in the area of bio-inspired AI, which will be delivered in the final lecture. Pitches will be prepared and rehearsed during class time. In addition, everyone must hand in an independent report of 5 pages describing their startup idea, motivation, market, how the technology will work, and what ethical/societal considerations should be addressed. (ILO 1-5)

Reading and References

Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies, Dario Floreano and Claudio Mattiussi, MIT Press, 2008