Government Industrial Strategy Targets AI, Data And Self-Driving Cars

Evil parliament (c) pisaphotography, Shutterstock 2014

The government’s industrial plan aims to put the UK at the ‘forefront’ of AI and autonomous vehicles, backed by mass data analysis

The governmentthe UK “at the forefront” of the artificial intelligence (AI) and data industries a central part of its industrial strategy launched this week.

The plan, titled “Building a Britain Fit for the Future”, outlines how the government intends to boost businesses and worker productivity through “investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future”.

Aside from AI and data, the strategy also outlines the establishment of a flexible regulatory framework for transportation that would boost ride-sharing, autonomous vehicles and “a blurring of the distinctions between private and public transport”.

The result is that the UK will become “a world leader in the way people, goods and services move”, the strategy argues.

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Digital innovation hubs

The government has said it aims to see fully self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads by 2021.

The document follows last week’s Budget, which promised a £500 million investment in new and previously committed funds in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and driverless cars.

The strategy seeks to establish “digital innovation hubs” to support the use of health and social care data in boosting the UK’s position in areas such as life sciences, while working within “strict parameters set by the National Data Guardian”.

“Health and social care are devolved but the technological challenges and benefits can be supported and seized across the UK,” says the document.

AI and machine learning are industries in their own right and are also “transforming business models across many sectors”, including healthcare, by making processes more effective.

“Embedding AI across the UK will create thousands of good quality jobs and drive economic growth,” the strategy says, quoting a Mckinsey study that found digital technologies including AI could create a net total of 80,000 new jobs annually in the UK and a PwC report that found AI could add £232bn to the British economy by 2030.

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Office for AI

Such speculations are far from being generally accepted, with other studies projecting AI could automate large areas of the economy out of existence and result in significant net job losses.

An Office for AI is planned to help boost the technology’s adoption, and is to work initially in the cybersecurity, life sciences, construction, manufacturing, energy, and agriculture sectors.

It is to work with the recently announced GovTech Catalyst for public sector adoption and with partners such as the Digital Catapult’s “Machine Learning Garage”, set to launch in January.

The UK is to invest £9m in the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation announced in the Budget, which is to review the data governance landscape and advise on its future direction.

The centre’s remit will include working with industry to establish data trusts to facilitate the secure sharing of data, something mooted in a government-commissioned AI industry review published in October.

The strategy is based on what it arges are the five areas essential to the country’s economic success – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places – with measures proposed for the development of each.

Under “ideas”, the government proposes raising the total research and development investment to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027, while the investment in “people” includes the establishment of a new technical education system.

“Infrastructure” investments include more than £1bn of public funds for digital infrastructure, such as £176m for 5G development and £200m to back the rollout of full-fibre data networks in local areas.

“Business environment” plans include partnerships between the public and private sector aiming to boost sector productivity and “places” is to see the establishment of a Transforming Cities fund to help develop intra-city transport.

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