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 £300 million 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 £300 million 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 £232 billion 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 £10 million 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 £110 million 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 AI across 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.
"By boosting AI skills and data driven technologies we will make sure that we continue to build a Britain that is shaping the future."
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 have 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 £20 million 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 £21 million 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 £9 million 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.
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "Artificial intelligence provides limitless opportunities to develop new, efficient and accessible products and services which transform the way we live and work. Today’s new deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce to establish the UK as a driving force in the development and commercial use of artificial intelligence technologies.
"As with all innovation there is also the potential for misuse which puts the whole sector under scrutiny and undermines public confidence. That is why we are establishing a new world-leading body, to ensure the ethical use of data in AI applications for the benefit of all."
International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox said: "Today’s announcement reaffirms the UK’s place as a world leader in artificial intelligence. This government is determined that British businesses should now take the next steps to build on the growing global opportunities provided by the advancement of AI, changing the lives of millions of people.
"As an international economic department, we will help UK companies in the AI sector to forge new trading ties that will boost exports, investment and provide jobs to every part of the country."
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.
Dame Wendy Hall said: "It is very exciting to see the recommendations in the AI Review turned into reality through this bold and ambitious Sector Deal for AI. We are at a pivotal point in the application of AI across many different sectors of industry and I truly believe the UK can take a leadership role in developing the use of AI in industry in a safe and ethical way that will be of benefit to everyone."
The AI sector deal will make Britain the go to place for AI and make sure this technology is used as a force for good to benefit people, from government’s investment in early diagnostics and precision medicines projects that will use AI to help diagnose chronic illnesses, to a commitment to establishing Data Trusts between government, industry and academia to ensure data sharing is safe and secure.
To better understand the ethical and security implications of data sharing and privacy breaches, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is investing £11 million 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.
Neil Crockett, Chief Digital Officer, Rolls-Royce, said: "At Rolls-Royce, we believe that 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 MoU signals an exciting new phase in Rolls-Royce’s relationship with The Alan Turing Institute. We believe this collaboration will further strengthen Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a world-leading adopter of AI technologies in an industrial context. At the same time, it will support the institute’s position, and thus the UK’s position, as a global centre of excellence for data science and AI."
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."