Brexit-bound UK follows EU with its own £1bn AI stimulus
The UK government has announced a £1 billion ($1.4bn) joint investment to stimulate the country’s artificial intelligence (AI) industry.
The deal includes £600 million of additional funding, comprising £300 million of private sector investment from 50 technology firms, matched by £300 million of newly allocated government funding. The government has already committed £400 million.
The move follows on the heels of a push by the European Commission (EC) to raise €20 billion of new funds from European governments and private enterprises to stimulate the AI industry within the European Union, which the UK is quitting in March 2019.
The EC has increased its own Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding to €1.5 billion for the period through to the end of 2020, it said.
For the UK government, AI represents a £232 billion opportunity, which could raise UK GDP by 20 per cent by 2030, with productivity rising 30 per cent in tandem.
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. AI 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, but there is more we can do.”
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Today’s deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and workforce to establish the UK as a driving force in the development and commercial use of AI technologies.”
The new investment is part of the government’s 2017 industrial strategy to make the UK a leader in AI, and a vibrant digital economy. A major part is to develop the UK workforce. The new investment includes money for training for 8,000 specialist computer science teachers and 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025.
Every secondary school in the land will have a computer science teacher at GCSE level to develop new generations of computing talent, the government said. Accountancy firm Sage has said it will deliver an AI pilot programme for 150 young people in the UK.
Among other initiatives covered by the new funding, the government plans £20 million to identify opportunities for service industries, £21m for a “high-growth tech network” to bring mid-sized companies to scale, £9 million for a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to advise on application and consumption of data technologies, and £11 million for 11 new university-led research projects.
The new £600 million funding will see Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain open a UK office and pump £35 million into UK start-ups, Canadian venture capital firm Chrysalix also open a UK office and put £110 million into AI and robotics, the University of Cambridge open a £10 million AI supercomputer facility, and Rolls-Royce join with thee Alan Turing Institute to research projects on application and deployment of AI in industry.
Neil Crockett, chief digital officer at Rolls-Royce, said: “AI is central to unleashing huge value for our customers and from within our own business, and in achieving our goal of pioneering the power that matters. This deal signals an exciting new phase in Rolls-Royce’s relationship with The Alan Turing Institute.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Microsoft have also promised funds. Marc Waters, its managing director in the UK and Ireland, commented: “The opportunity exists not only to harness the power of AI for innovation and scientific discovery but to improve productivity and provide economic growth.”