UK’s AI industry to get $1.4 billion boost in attempt to catch up to China

The United Kingdom’s AI industry is set to receive a $1.4 billion boost from American tech giants, European telecom companies, a Japanese venture capital fund, and the British government as part of an initiative to close the gap with China in the artificial intelligence field.

The $1.4 billion funding is comprised of 300 million pounds ($417 million) from private entities, 300 million pounds ($417 million) of new government spending, as well as 400 million pounds ($556 million) that the state had previously pledged.

According to a Bloomberg Technology report, American companies investing in the UK’s AI industry include Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp., Facebook Inc., as well as consulting firm PwC and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. From Canada, VC firm Chrysalix has pledged 110 million pounds ($153 million) for the country’s AI and robotics programs. Global Brain, a Japanese investment firm, also stated that it would be opening a European headquarters on top of a 35-million-pound ($48 million) investment in tech startups over the next five years.

The University of Cambridge further announced that it would be opening a 10-million-pound ($13 million) AI supercomputer, which would be offered to businesses for use. The British government, for its part, stated that it would sponsor 1,000 new Ph.D. places for individuals interested in pursuing post-graduate studies in artificial intelligence and its related disciplines. Plans were also announced to train 8,000 new computer science teachers for the secondary schools in the country.

Trade Commissioner for North America and Consul General in New York Antony Phillipson ultimately noted that Britain would likely not be able to compete with China in terms of raw funding or the scale of government-run AI initiatives, but it could eventually helm discussions around subjects such as AI ethics, safety, and regulation.

Phillipson’s statement about China’s AI initiatives reflects much of the Asian country’s recent moves on ongoing AI push. Last year, China issued a bold declaration, stating that it would become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. Since releasing its ambitious target, the Asian economic superpower has walked the walk, investing in AI research and supporting companies involved in the development of smart technologies.

Just recently, SenseTime, an AI startup from China, reached a total valuation of $4.5 billion after a funding round led by e-commerce giant Alibaba. SenseTime’s AI solutions range from fun, wholesome AR filters for mobile applications to more serious, intricate surveillance tech. Earlier this year, China has also announced plans to build an expansive $2.1-billion, 55-hectare tech park in Beijing, which is expected to host up to 400 businesses involved in the development of AI solutions and similar technologies.

Despite not aiming to be a world leader by 2030 like China, however, the UK still stands to benefit from the emergence of AI technology. According to Wendy Hall, a computer scientist from the University of Southampton, artificial intelligence and its related fields can add 654 billion pounds ($910 billion) to Britain’s economy by 2035.

UK’s AI industry to get $1.4 billion boost in attempt to catch up to China
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