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Government puts up £23m a year for AI to boost UK economy

Business secretary Greg Clark announces Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, committing more than £1bn over four years

The government will invest £93m in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next four years as part of its $1bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “Addressing the UK’s productivity gap is key to raising living standards and ensuring we are match-fit to compete in the global economy.”

The AI investment, which works out at £23.25m a year, represents a tiny percentage of the overall market opportunity, given that the global AI market is expected to be worth $16bn by 2022, according to Research and Markets.

Accenture has estimated that the AI sector could add about £654bn to the UK economy by 2035.

The government said its AI investment of £93m over four years would be used to make industry and public services more productive by developing AI and robotics systems that could be deployed in the extreme environments that occur in offshore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining.

But, as Computer Weekly has previously reported, business leaders were warned during the World Economic Forum earlier this year that AI and automation could destroy many existing white-collar jobs – threatening to decimate the middle class.

The AI research fund follows £17m of AI funding announced by the government in February as part of its digital strategy.

Business secretary Greg Clark confirmed that, subject to business case approval, the government will invest a further £38m in new collaborative research and development projects, working with industry partners to develop the next generation of AI and control for driverless cars.

Clark said: “As part of our Plan for Britain, this government wants to create a modern industrial strategy to support the key sectors of our economy and spread jobs, prosperity and opportunity around the whole country.

“Through the ISCF, we will provide an enormous boost to our world-class research and development sector, to help turn brilliant British innovations into new businesses and good jobs.”

Innovate UK has confirmed that it will support a £10m first wave of six projects through the ISCF with a number of smaller projects, starting this year.

Ruth McKernan, chief executive of Innovate UK, said: “The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will deliver the science that business needs. We are giving businesses the green light to start finding solutions to some of our major societal and industrial challenges and, at the same time, helping us fully realise the economic impact from our world-class science base.”

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