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The British National AI Strategy

A Summary of the Sector Deal for AI

The United Kingdom has no clear ‘national strategy’ and in a 183-page report, “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?” it is mentioned that perhaps it should. However the closest and often referenced is the policy paper Sector Deal for AI last updated the 21st of May 2019 and released on March the 6th 2018 by the UK government. Sector Deal for AI was led by Business Secretary Greg Clark, thus its tone and focus is largely on productivity and business-oriented research.

The report starts with an outline of five foundations of productivity.

  • Ideas — the world’s most innovative economy
  • People — good jobs and greater earning power for all
  • Infrastructure — a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure
  • Business environment — the best place to start and grow a business
  • Places — prosperous communities across the UK

They set a few grand challenges to put UK at the forefront of industries of the future (1) AI and data revolution; (2) world leader in mobility; (3) a shift to clean growth; (4) meeting the needs of an ageing society.

Their key policy moves include:

  • Raise total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027
  • Increase the rate of R&D tax credit to 12%
  • Invest £725 million in new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes to capture the value of innovation

Alongside a new technical education system, £406 million in STEM-related education, £64 million retraining scheme. In terms of infrastructure £31 billion in transport, housing and digital infrastructure (national productivity investment fund). “Boost our digital infrastructure with over £1 billion of public investment, including £176 million for 5G and £200 million for local areas to encourage roll out of full-fibre networks.” These are some of the initiatives mentioned in the report.

This Sector Deal is the first commitment from government and industry to realise this technology’s potential, outlining a package of up to £0.95 billion of support for the sector, which includes government, industry and academic contributions up to £603 million in newly allocated funding, and up to £342 million from within existing budgets, alongside £250 million for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. This support complements and leverages some of the £1.7 billion that has been announced under the cross-sectoral Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund so far, with 5 challenges having AI components that AI businesses will be able to bid into through future competitions.

The policy paper also draws on the government’s Digital Strategy, which focuses on reinforcing telecoms, data and enterprise.

Part of the strategy mentions ‘places’ in particular:

They still want to grow expertise with businesses across the country, and is ready to fund these efforts.

Government support for AI is listed as:

  • £20 million in the application of AI in the services sector through the Next Generation Services Industrial Strategy Challenge.
  • £93 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund into the robotics and AI in extreme environments programme (such as nuclear and offshore).
  • Create a £20 million GovTech Fund, supported by a GovTech Catalyst.
  • Increase in the rate of the R&D Expenditure Credit from 11% to 12% from January 2018.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

  • £300 million has been allocated by the EPSRC to fund research related to ‘data science and AI’.
  • £83 million EPSRC funding for 159 AI grants.
  • £42 million EPSRC funding for the Alan Turing Institute, with £30 million funding from partners: Lloyds Register, Intel, and ARM.

They list investments in the UK from ‘AI powerhouses’:

  • Google has 3 offices in London with a new office planned with 7000 staff when it opens in 2020.
  • ElementAI opened a new R&D centre in London in 2018.
  • Amazon has 24,000 people working in the UK. Their corporate and R&D workforce in London was approximately 5,000 by the end of 2017.
  • HPE has a program to establish the largest ARM-based supercomputer available to both academia and industry across the UK.
  • Beyond Limits has delivered to NASA and US military. They have chosen UK as international base for expansion around the Cambridge area.
  • Ironfly Technologies startup headquartered in Hong Kong using AI and ML learning to interact with market data, they establish a base in London.
  • Astroscale is a Japanese company developing capability for cleaning up space debris expected to generate 100 high-value engineering jobs in the UK.
  • Chrysalix is a VC firm that established its European HQ in the UK and is expected to invest 40–60% through its European base.

The United Kingdom is expanding its investment in AI talent with both VISAs (as well as other immigration rules) and more funding to research centres.

The policy paper outlines industry action to support AI.

  1. Participation in the AI council to review recommendations in the Sector Deal.
  2. Promotion of AI in UK and globally in trade missions, AI exhibitions and international conferences.
  3. Global Brain one of the largest VC funds (from Japan) is opening its European headquarter in the UK with plans to deploy £35 million over 5 years in UK deeptech startups, with a key focus on AI, Blockchain and Robotics.
  4. Hewlett Packard Enterprise launched offerings to help customers use AI.

At the bottom of the report there are additionally the headline to develop fair, equitable and secure data sharing frameworks. However this is not a notable feature of the report.

The key deal activities is as follows:

  • October 2017 — Publication of the AI ReviewNovember
  • 2017 – Industrial Strategy white paper published. Announcement of £20 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) support for Next Generation Services using artificial intelligence, and £210 million ISCF support for Data to early diagnostics and precision medicine which includes using AI to analyse medical images in digital pathology
  • Quarter 2 2018 – Sector Deal launched. Establishment of AI Council, interim Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and Office for AI. First meeting of the AI Council. First funded challenges are launched, including Next Generation Services
  • Quarter 1 2019 — Annual Review of the Sector Deal

AI Sector Deal One Year On

The annual review of the sector deal called AI Sector Deal One Year On was released in April 2019.

This indicated there is an office for Artificial Intelligence.

The Office for Artificial Intelligence is a joint BEIS-DCMS unit responsible for overseeing implementation of the AI and Data Grand Challenge. Its mission is to drive responsible and innovative uptake of AI technologies for the benefit of everyone in the UK. The Office for AI does this by engaging organisations, fostering growth and delivering recommendations around data, skills and public and private sector adoption.

In February 2019, we announced an AI skills and talent package that includes:

  • 16 new centres for doctoral training at universities across the country, delivering 1,000 new PhDs over the next 5 years.
  • New prestigious Turing AI fellowships to attract and retain the top AI talent.
  • The first wave of industry-funding for new AI Masters places.

In addition the Prime Minister announced:

  • 2,500 places available for the first time for AI and data conversion courses
  • Up to 1,000 government-funded scholarships to open up opportunities for people from all backgrounds

The overall follow-up of the Sector Deal for AI has a positive note.

It will be interesting to follow the moves that UK will make in 2020.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 223. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence.



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