UK government announces £1 billion investment in AI

The UK government has announced it will invest £1 billion in AI in a bid to bolster the country's tech sector amid fierce competition on the global stage.

The deal includes funding for 1,000 AI PhDs, a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and training 8,000 specialist computer science teachers to ensure there is one in every secondary school.

"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," Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said in a statement.

Hopes to compete with global AI powerhouses

The government identified AI and data as one of four areas in which the UK can lead the world in technology in its Industrial Strategy, published in 2017, which estimated that it could add £232 billion to the UK economy by 2030, the equivalent of 10 percent of GDP. 

Japanese and Canadian venture capital firms will be adding to the funding promised by the government and British companies, in a concerted effort to stave off the threat from the growing AI sector in China, which aims to become the AI world leader by 2030.

As a result, Vancouver venture capital firm Chrysalix and Japanese VC group Global Brain will both open European HQs in the UK, and respectively invest up to £110 million in AI and robotics and £35 million in deep-tech startups in the country.

The £1 billion total investment will add almost £300 million of new private sector investment and more than £300 million of newly allocated government funding for AI research to the £400 million that the government had previously announced.

European competition is also rising. On Wednesday, the European Commission called for an investment of at least €20 billion in AI research by 2020, while French President Emmanuel Macron last week pledged to invest almost £1.5 billion into AI research in his country.

"Today’s announcement reaffirms the UK’s place as a world leader in artificial intelligence," Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, said in a statement.

"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."

Andy Cotgreave, technical evangelism director at Tableau Software, said the government would also need to invest in the underlying data management practices to compete with China and the US.

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