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Artificial intelligence names London as UK’s top innovation hub

An AI tool from Data City and the Open Data Institute has ranked the best clusters of cities for innovation across various technologies

An artificial intelligence (AI) tool has identified London and its surrounding areas as the UK’s top technology innovation hub, based on its work in driving technologies such as smart cities and advanced manufacturing.

AI startup Data City partnered with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to analyse information about the impact and location of universities and academic buildings, as well as the networking opportunities and business success stories to rank various places across the UK using machine learning.

The technology ranked cities and their regions overall across five industries: smart cities and mobility, clean growth, AI and data, advanced manufacturing and ageing society – four of which are the same as the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The data, which is open to use and will be updated monthly, is part of Data City and Open Data Institute’s £6m push to drive analytics in the country, with support from non-department public body Innovate UK.

The group of London and Luton (21.5%) contributes the largest amount to the overall innovation and the former was the highest in all sectors.

The capital scored a percentage of 20.9% for smart cities and mobility, 24.2% for clean growth, 27.1% for AI and data, 26.7% for advanced manufacturing and 31.2% for ageing society, sharing first place with Slough.

Birmingham and Coventry ranked second (12.2%) for smart cities, as well as for clean growth (6.4%), whilst the southern cluster of Brighton, Aldershot, Worthing, Crawley and Slough (6.9%) ranked second for AI & data.

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The group of Manchester, Preston, Wigan, Warrington, Blackburn and Burnley (7.1%) was second for advanced manufacturing, and Birmingham was also second (6.2%) for ageing society.

Luton itself only ranked in the top 10 for two of the five sectors, but Data City’s co-founder and head of data, Tom Forth, told Computer Weekly it is considered a part of London when ranking the best clusters for innovation.

“London will always come top of our ranking, just because it’s five times bigger than the next city in the UK,” he said “We’re almost saying Luton is part of London, as far as innovation goes.”

“We’ve just thrown away all the existing geography. All we care about is where people work together, where businesses work together and where scientists work together – and then we create what we call ‘clusters’ based on that.”

“So it turns out that a lot of companies, a lot of people and a lot of researchers in Luton work very closely with people in London, Guilford and all kinds of other places that are in the London sphere of influence.”

Data City and ODI deliberately choose a different way of measuring the results to move away from the traditional view of these cities.

“The messages we are developing in the open are designed to get away from an old way of thinking, which is that these are six cities and six geographies set in stone, and move towards a way of saying: ‘How does the economy actually work so that people can target investment or think about all kinds of business mergers, collaborations and university funding?’”

Open data

ODI CEO Jeni Tennison said making the data open will also hopefully encourage other individuals to build on this work.

“This index can be used to inform policy makers, investors and businesses about innovation across the UK, showing where there are active tech communities in different sectors and where there are gaps,” she said.

“It also demonstrates how new sources of data can be brought together to cast a different light on innovation in the UK.”

Last year, the index ranked 36 cities based on innovation, but Forth said this latest one uses many more data points to provide a more accurate view.

“With this index, we are providing an evidence base for better-informed decisions in the UK government and beyond,” he said.

“We believe this information will help private investors looking to invest in companies, existing businesses looking to expand, national government departments looking to assign investment, and local and regional governments looking to assign funding locally or make a case for inward investment to their regions.”

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