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British government unveils £1bn artifical intelligence sector deal


More than 50 leading technology firms have teamed up as part of a £1bn (US$1.38bn, €1.14bn) deal to put Britain at the forefront of the world’s development of artificial intelligences.

Called the AI Sector Deal, the agreement between the British government and AI sector includes nearly £300m (US$414.3m, €342.8m) of new private sector investment as part of the overall package, as well as £300m of newly allocated government funding for AI research to make the UK a global leader in this technology.

“The UK must be at the forefront of emerging technologies, pushing boundaries and harnessing innovation to change people’s lives for the better,” said digital secretary Matt Hancock, who made the announcement alongside business secretary Greg Clark.

"AI 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, 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.”

Among the investments included in the deal, Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain will open its first European HQ in the UK, investing £35m (US$48.2m, €33.9m) in UK deep-tech start-ups. The University of Cambridge will also open a new £10m (US$13.8m, €11.4m) AI supercomputer and make its infrastructure available to businesses, while Vancouver-based venture capital firm Chrysalix, will open a European HQ in Britain, investing up to £110m (US$151.5m, €125.4m) in AI and robotics. Finally, 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.

The deal, says the government, 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.

In addition to investment for research and production, the £1bn package includes finances to train up to 8,000 specialist computer science teachers and 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025. The money will also be used to develop a prestigious global Turing Fellowship programme, designed to attract and retain the best research talent in AI to Britain.

Regionally, the government will provide £20m (US$27.5m, €22.8m) of funding to help the UK’s service industries with new pilot projects to identify how AI can transform and enhance their operations. £21m (US$28.9m, €23.9m) will also be allocated to create Tech Nation, a new UK-wide organisation working across the country to create a high-growth tech network for ambitious entrepreneurs.

Earlier this month the British government’s House of Lords published a report calling for the Law Commission to establish new laws surrounding advancements in the field, with current laws deemed insufficiently able to protect AI users from systems malfunction or the potential risk of harm. To address this, a £9m (US$12.4m, £10.3m) centre will be established, which 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.

“The announcement reaffirms the UK’s place as a world leader in artificial intelligence,” said international trade secretary, Liam Fox.

"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.”

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