Government promises £20m investment in robotics and artificial intelligence

The Artificial Intelligence industry could add around £654 billion to the UK economy

Niamh McIntyre@niamh_mcintyre
Sunday 26 February 2017 13:53
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A robot serves food at a restaurant in Shenyang, China
A robot serves food at a restaurant in Shenyang, China

The government will launch a review into Artifical Intelligence (AI) and robotics in an attempt to make the UK a world leader in tech.

The government said in a statement on Sunday that it would invest £17.3 million in university research on AI. Artificial intelligence powers technologies such as Apple’s SIRI, Amazon’s Alexa, and driverless cars.

According to a report by consultancy firm Accenture, Artificial Intelligence could add around £654 billion to the UK economy.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research recently forecast that millions of jobs will be lost to automation over the next two decades. Researchers predicted that two million jobs retail jobs will disappear by 2030 and 600,000 will go in manufacturing.

Jérôme Pesenti, CEO of Benevolent Tech, who will be leading government research into AI, said,

“There has been a lot of unwarranted negative hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI), but it has the ability to drive enormous growth for the UK economy, create jobs, foster new skills, positively transform every industry and retain Britain’s status as a world leader in innovative technology.

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The announcement is part of the government’s new “Digital Strategy”, which will be announced in full on Wednesday. As well as investment in research and the tech industry, the strategy is also expected to detail a comprehensive modernisation of the civil service.

The government has been heavily criticised the delay in the publication of the strategy. In 2015, Ed Vaizey, the then Digital Minister, said plans would be published in early 2016.

In January, the chairman of the government’s Science and Technology Committee criticised the government for this delay.

In a letter to Digital Minister Matt Hancock, Mr Metcalfe expressed his “disappointment over such a long delay.”

The letter also asked “why the strategy continues to be a work in progress nearly a year after [Mr Hancock’s] predecessor considered it already largely completed.”

The government has said it was forced to delay the publication of the report to take into account the impact of Brexit.

However, other sources have suggested that Whitehall’s resistance to the modernisation of the civil service under the Government Digital Service plans was also a significant factor.

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