Cisco promises $100m for UK tech sector; partners with UCL for AI talent factory
Cisco is to invest $100 million in the UK to help the UK government with its ‘industrial strategy’ to become a leading economy for emerging digital technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles.
As part of the investment, Cisco and University College London (UCL) will open “one of the world’s largest” AI research centres in London, to house over 200 researchers and academics, with a focus on addressing industrial challenges and developing new tech talent in the UK.
The UK ranks fifth in the world according Cisco-sponsored research by Gartner, which ranks nations on seven measures that impact a nation’s ability to embrace digital, including infrastructure, technology adoption, skills, basic human needs, business and government investment and start-up environment.
It calculates AI could add £232 billion to the UK economy by 2030. The UK government’s stated industrial strategy sets out four ‘grand challenges’ for modern society: the data economy, ageing society, future mobility, and clean growth.
Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The UK has become the natural destination in Europe for the largest and most innovative tech companies to operate and invest. Cisco’s strong commitment to the UK highlights we have the ambition, research excellence and regulatory environment for world-leading firms to develop the innovations that will change people’s lives for the better.”
Cisco’s ‘country digital acceleration’ (CDA) programme in the UK, which the new investment joins, is focused on four areas, also: innovation and skills, national infrastructure and security, public sector and regional growth, and industrial strategy and productivity.
Cisco said it has committed over $1.5 billion in digital and innovation investment and projects in the UK since 2011, when it started work to create an “innovation legacy” from the 2012 Olympic games in London.
The UCL AI centre, set to open its doors later this year, will be one of the largest global facilities for training AI masters students, Cisco said. It will address opportunities in areas such as healthcare, drug discovery, transport and commerce.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The decision by Cisco to make such a significant commitment to digital innovation across the UK is welcome news and is a vote of confidence in our modern industrial strategy. I particularly welcome the announcement of the new AI research centre in partnership with UCL.”
UCL president and provost, professor Michael Arthur said: “It’s wonderful to renew our partnership with Cisco and work together to upskill the UK in machine learning and artificial intelligence. I’m particularly looking forward to opening the new AI Centre in the coming months to position us as a sector leader in computer science.”
Meanwhile, Cisco has joined an Innovate UK project with Bronze Software Labs, GDS Digital Services, Suffolk County Council, West Suffolk Council and the University of Suffolk to improve digital inclusion in the UK.
The project will see highly secure broadband and connectivity installed in 200 homes in Suffolk, in East Anglia. The work will last 21 months, and seek to create a viable business model for digital inclusion.
Eighty per cent of government interactions with the public take place with the poorest 25 per cent of society, said Cisco in a statement. “The model is based on the premise that those who would benefit most from digital connectivity are often those who are least likely to afford or adopt internet access yet are more likely to rely heavily on public services.”
Cisco noted also its involvement in various rail and road initiatives, addressing the UK’s government’s mobility challenge, further the country’s position as a leader in connected and autonomous vehicles. It flagged up commercialisation of Project SWIFT to provide the fastest, most reliable Wi-Fi on trains in Scotland, to support connected experiences on trains in the UK.
Cisco chairman and chief executive Chuck Robbins said: “Technology is permeating everything we do, not only opening up new markets, but creating more opportunities for individuals, businesses, and countries. Cisco is committed to driving innovation in the UK and to our continued partnership with the UK government through our Country Digital Acceleration programme. We believe that the UK’s expertise in AI and its commitment to making sure future innovators have the right digital skills will help ensure the nation’s citizens are well-positioned to capture the opportunity ahead.”