More than 50 leading businesses and organisations have contributed to the development of a £1bn deal to put the nation at the forefront of the artificial intelligence industry, featuring almost £300m of new private sector investment.
The deal between government and industry, announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Digital Secretary Matt Hancock today (Thursday 26 April 2018), also includes more than £300m of newly allocated government funding for AI research to make the UK a global leader in this technology.
Building on the commitment made in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy and its AI Grand Challenge, the deal marks the first phase of a major innovation-focused investment drive in AI which aims to help the UK seize the £232bn opportunity AI offers the UK economy by 2030 (10% of GDP).
The Artificial intelligence Sector Deal follows record levels of investments into UK tech in 2017 and today’s deal includes new investments such as:
- Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain opening its first European HQ in the UK and investing £35 million in UK deep-tech start-ups
- 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, is also going to establish a European HQ in the UK and use 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 AIacross supply chains, data-centric engineering and predictive maintenance, and the role of data analytics and AI in science.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock said: “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.”
Developing AI skills
The deal will help establish the UK as a research hotspot, with measures to ensure the innovators and tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow are based in the UK, with investment in the high-level post-graduate skills needed to capitalise on technology’s huge potential.
It includes money for training for 8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025 and a commitment to develop a prestigious global Turing Fellowship programme to attract and retain the best research talent in AI to the UK.
This will make sure every secondary school has a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher to give the next generation the skills they need to develop and capitalise on future technology.
As part of the deal, the accountancy firm Sage has also committed to delivering an AI pilot programme for 150 young people across the UK.
Regional tech hubs
The government will build on its reputation as an international hub for AI innovation and provide £20m of funding to help the UK’s service industries, including law and insurance, with new pilot projects to identify how AI can transform and enhance their operations.
The government has also pledged £21m of funding to create Tech Nation, a new UK-wide organisation working across the country to create a high-growth tech network for ambitious entrepreneurs. One of Tech Nation’s new goals will be to establish an internationally-respected programme for mid-stage AI companies to help bring them to scale.
World’s first Centre for Data Ethics
The deal highlights government work to ensure all AI developments in Britain are conducted to the highest ethical standards by establishing a world-leading Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.
The £9m centre will be an important part of plans to make the UK the best place in the world for businesses developing AI to grow and thrive. It will address the challenges posed by the adoption of AI and advise on the measures needed to enable and ensure safe, ethical and innovative uses of data-driven technologies, while helping protect consumers.
AI Grand Challenge
The new sector deal is the focal point of the government’s Artificial Intelligence Grand Challenge, a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy which sets out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. The AI Grand Challenge aims to put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution ensuring the vast social and economic benefits of this technology are felt in every corner of Britain.
The Industrial Strategy set out four Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. AI and Data is one of these and this sector deal provides the blueprint for delivery.
The government’s modern Industrial Strategy sets out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It sets out how we are building an economy fit for the future – how we will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.
To better understand the ethical and security implications of data sharing and privacy breaches, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is investing £11m in 11 new research projects, led by universities, to analyse the important challenges for people and businesses that use data and those that allow access to their data.
Marc Waters, Managing Director (UK and Ireland), Hewlett Packard Enterprise said: “Artificial intelligence presents a significant opportunity to create competitive advantage for the UK economy with benefits for companies, workers and consumers.
“The opportunity exists not only to harness the power of AI for innovation and scientific discovery but to improve productivity and provide economic growth.”
Boris Krumrey, chief robotics officer at automation expert UiPath, has welcomed the new plans. “AI has the potential to benefit everything that we do,” he said. “We are already seeing how, by combining RPA and AI, complex capabilities are beginning to emerge. While automation is able to streamline repetitive, rules-based business processes, the software is largely unable to deal with exceptions on its own or make decisions outside of how it has been programmed. AI can be used, even in addition to automation software, to approach tasks that require more complex decision-making and analysis, such as natural language processing, recommendation services, and online customer support.
“However, it is vital that there is further investment in research and education around AI and robotics, and the benefits this tech will bring such as increased employment opportunities. These jobs may look different than before and require other skillsets and knowledge. For example, individuals would be tasked with developing new automation technologies and managing the implementation of these technologies within our business environment. Furthermore, individuals will remain responsible for emotive occupations, such as therapists and teachers – professions that still have low automation potential.”
Accenture Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Lead, UKI, Emma Kendrew, added: “Out of everything announced in today’s AI sector deal, one of the most significant is the Centre for Data Ethics. AI-driven operations are now becoming more common-practice. It is already being trialled across hiring processes, medical practices and even the criminal justice system.
“As the stakes get higher, AI will have unprecedented access and impact on the ways people work and live. The technology needs to be nurtured in the same way as a child and taught the principles of good citizenship: responsibility, fairness, and transparency. It’s definitely a case of nurture over nature.
“The new Centre established today will have a vital role in making sure AI is ‘raised’ and deployed responsibly. As a world-first, it will ensure that the UK stays firmly pinned on the map as a top location for global businesses to invest in their AI efforts, as well as for homegrown talent to thrive.”
This announcement follows recent research that revealed that two thirds of UK citizens (65%) believe robots will eventually work in government, with over a third of those surveyed (34%) thinking this could happen within the next five years.
The Artificial Intelligence Sector Deal can be read in full here.