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Cambridge is the most ‘AI-ready’ city, study finds

Cambridge AI
Cambridge University Top View

Cambridge has been named the UK’s most “AI-ready city” as the government unveils plans to encourage artificial intelligence innovation by revamping regulations.

A study from software analytics company SAS found that Cambridge scored the highest on its AI-readiness Index, which ranks cities based on the number of AI-related jobs, R&D spend, GDP, business growth, and the number of relevant academic courses available.

Cambridge is home to AI startups such as AI-powered drug discovery startup Healx, along with public companies such as cybersecurity firm Darktrace.

The study noted that Cambridge had the highest number of AI-related jobs at 54,210.

Closely following Cambridge for AI readiness is Oxford, with Manchester, Salford, and Edinburgh not far behind.

“AI, machine learning and data analytics are transforming the way businesses and other organisations operate, and the fact that so many cities are embracing it is a positive sign,” said Glynn Townsend, senior director of education services at SAS for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Many [cities], such as Manchester and Salford, are outside London and the Southeast, which is good news for the government’s ‘levelling up’ plans.”

The government said in 2019 that it had ambitious plans to ‘level up’ the country by increasing investment and support to areas of the country outside major cities. Whether the new government leadership will continue this plan is unclear, however, it is a key area of interest for many tech startup investors.

“At the same time, our research also shows large discrepancies between the most and least-prepared areas. Size and the remoteness of the location might explain why some are lagging behind – but it’s important they’re given opportunities to get up to speed,” Townsend added.

“For a start, the UK doesn’t have enough data talent to meet the demand for AI, so we need to increase the talent pool with more opportunities for people to upskill and reskill, instead of only relying on graduates.”

A report published last week by Tech Nation found that the digital skills gap in the UK was widening, with more tech job vacancies than experienced tech workers available.