show image

Oscar Williams

News editor

The UK government has pledged to invest £300m in AI research

The government has vowed to invest £300m in artificial intelligence research, in an effort to accelerate the sector’s growth and position the UK as a leader in the field.

The funding, a part of the UK’s latest industrial strategy, is in addition to £300m already earmarked for finding innovative solutions to an ageing society, the bulk of which will be invested in data science.

It comes just weeks after the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, announced that the French government would plough more than $1.5bn (£1.3bn) into AI research over the next four years.

The UK’s AI sector deal includes funding for the training of 8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025 and a Turing Fellowship programme to attract and retain talent.

The government will spend £9m on the previously announced Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, which will advise industry and government on deploying data-driven technology in a way that protects consumers.

Dame Wendy Hall, the co-author of last year’s review of the UK’s AI strategy, described the deal as “bold and ambitious”. The business and energy secretary Greg Clark said it would establish the UK as “a driving force” in the development and commercial use of AI.

The deal includes a total package of spending amounting to £1bn, with Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain opening its first European headquarters in the UK and pledging to invest £35m in UK “deep tech” startups.

Cambridge University, meanwhile, has agreed to open a £10m super computer available to businesses. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the chipmaker Arm recently announced a similar plan to launch super computers at three universities.

A 181-page House of Lords report on AI published earlier this month concluded that while the government’s strategy is moving in the right direction, more needs to be done. Tim Clement-Jones, the chair of the committee behind the report, told attendees at AI Expo in London last week that the UK still needs a “proper national framework”.

He added: “We compared ourselves with South Korea, with Canada, with Germany and we felt that in many ways that our strategy wasn’t nearly as joined up as theirs.”