UK Government Sets Sights On £650bn AI Sector With Funding


New government plans set to include a major industry review and a £17.3m funding boost for universities

The UK government is set to announce plans to boost the growth and support of Britain’s potentially-lucrative artificial intelligence (AI) sector.

Building on the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the announcement of which was supposedly delayed last month due to the repercussions of Brexit, the plans will aim to capitalise on Britain’s existing strengths and support the development of new technologies.

The strategy is expected to include a major review into the AI industry, as well as a £17.3 million funding boost from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the development of new Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) technologies in universities across the UK.

Accenture has estimated that AI could add around £654 billion ($814bn) to the UK economy by 2035 and Britain’s existing ecosystem of investors, employers and developers make it well-placed to take advantage of this.

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AI boom

“Britain has a proud history of digital innovation – from the earliest days of computing to Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s development of the World Wide Web,” said Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, who will be publishing the strategy on Wednesday (March 1).

“We are already pioneers in today’s artificial intelligence revolution and the Digital Strategy will build on our strengths to make sure UK-based scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs continue to be at the forefront.

“Technologies like AI have the potential to transform how we live, work, travel and learn, and I am pleased that Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Jérôme Pesenti will be leading this review. It’s great that Government and industry will be working together to drive growth in the sector, to realise all the economic and social benefits for the UK.”

The review cited by Bradley will seek to identify the critical elements that will allow AI to grow in the UK and will consider how government and industry could work together to support the rapidly-growing technology.

Speaking to Silicon, Jérôme Pesenti, CEO of BenevolentTech said: “We are in the midst of a digital transformation for which AI represents the ultimate stage of development. AI will drive deep changes in our society and especially in the way we work.

“Like the previous tech revolutions, AI will make the world a better place creating better medicine, personalised healthcare, more efficient transportation, smarter manufacturing and computers that adapt to us rather than us having to adapting to them.

“The UK needs to be at the forefront of the AI revolution. Its unique blend of academic strength, economic dynamism, and track record as a global innovator will place the UK at the forefront of this new wave of digital transformation.”

Artificial Intelligence experienced a boom of growth in 2016, as some of the biggest names in tech made moves to lead the race towards the widespread adoption of the revolutionary technology.

Microsoft launched a new startup fund specifically focused on AI companies, Intel reportedly splashed $350m on AI startup Nervana Systems and Ford recently announced a $1 billion (£798m) AI investment to accelerate the development of self-driving cars.

However, the optimism surrounding the technology has been accompanied by some stark warnings around the humanistic implications. For example, automation recently killed hundreds of jobs at Goldman Sachs and the government has been urged to use AI to cut nearly 250,000 administrative roles by 2030.

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