UK

The government has allocated £300m in new funding to invest in AI research in a bid to make the UK a global leader in the technology.

According to a press release, more than 50 businesses and organisations have contributed to the development of a £1bn deal, which was announced by business secretary Greg Clark and digital secretary Matt Hancock.  

The new funding builds on the commitment made in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy and its AI Grand Challenge. It aims to help the UK seize the £232bn opportunity artificial intelligence offers the UK economy by 2030.

Today’s announcement comes after ‘record levels’ of investment into the UK tech sector last year, and includes new deals such as:

  • Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain opening its first European HQ in the UK and investing £35m in UK deep-tech startups
  • The University of Cambridge opening a new £10m AI supercomputer and making its infrastructure available to businesses
  • Top-ranking Vancouver-based venture capital firm Chrysalix, setting up a European HQ in the UK and using it to invest up to £110m in AI and robotics
  • The Alan Turing Institute and Rolls-Royce will jointly-run research projects exploring: how data science can be applied at scale, the application of AI across supply chains, data-centric engineering and predictive maintenance, and the role of data analytics and AI in science.

Matt Hancock , Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, commented on the news:

“The UK must be at the forefront of emerging technologies, pushing boundaries and harnessing innovation to change people’s lives for the better.

“Artificial Intelligence is at the centre of our plans to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business. We have a great track record and are home to some of the world’s biggest names in AI like Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon, but there is so much more we can do.

“By boosting AI skills and data driven technologies we will make sure that we continue to build a Britain that is shaping the future.”

Reaction

“Following on from the House of Lords’ report into the AI industry, this latest deal is a really positive step forward for the industry, reaffirming the government’s commitment to make the UK a global leader in artificial intelligence. To fulfil this objective, efforts must now be directed towards encouraging SME and startup adoption of AI technologies, which can drastically improve the way they operate,” said Salvatore Minetti, founder and CEO of Prospex, a startup that leverages AI to generate sales leads.

Minetti went on to note that getting wider industry adoption of the technology would require greater private sector awareness.

“Importantly, the UK tech scene is thriving with innovative new firms offering accessible AI solutions for companies of all shapes and sizes. These service providers will be integral in the UK’s efforts to become a hub for AI innovation, and I’m excited to see what the future will hold for these businesses,” he added.

Steve King, CEO and co-founder of  Black Swan Data, also commented: “Over the last five years, Black Swan Data has seen a massive rise in businesses embracing AI technology, from retail to transportation, CPG and utilities, so as a technology, there’s no doubt that it is going to be an integral part of our future. This investment – and particularly its focus on skills – will only help UK continue to lead when it comes to artificial intelligence, but investment in technology is only one side of the coin. There also needs to be careful consideration of its wider impact and ideally regulation on how it’s implemented – in the case of AI, we may already be past the point of trying to regulate it.

“In recent weeks it’s become clear that a lack of oversight can have serious consequence and so the introduction of an AI Council and new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is very welcome. The government needs to ensure that these bodies are made up of people who really understand the technology and are able to devise an approach that provides parameters, but does not hinder it,” concluded King.