In the race for AI dominance, the United States and China are engaged in a fierce struggle in what may be the last arms race of human civilization, but they aren’t the only nations who recognize the importance of artificial intelligence as a key driver of future political clout and economic prosperity. The United Kingdom, the leading European Nation in the research and development of artificial intelligence, is making a major push to retain and expand its position as Europe’s foremost artificial intelligence power.
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Pedigree
Modern computing itself owes much of its existence to the British mathematician, and “father” of computer science, Alan Turing, so it’s little surprise then that the United Kingdom would look to the Alan Turing Institute (ATI) to lead the charge on the AI front.
“Artificial intelligence represents an incredible opportunity to transform our economy and our lives for the better,” said ATI director, Adrian Smith.
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Part of the UK’s new Industrial Strategy, the Alan Turing Institute has opened up AI research fellowships in a push to attract and retain top AI talent around the world.
“The Turing AI Fellowships will be crucial in building UK leadership capability, driving forward ambitious research and ensuring that the UK can attract, retain, and develop world-leading research talent,” Smith said.
The Industrial Strategy’s goal is to improve industrial productivity by having the government partner with industry leaders to create new, well-paid jobs in the UK through targeted investments in industries and infrastructure related to particular, in-demand skills.
“The UK has long been a nation of innovators,” says UK Business Secretary Greg Clark in announcing the new Industrial Strategy. “This AI skills and talent investment will help nurture leading UK and international talent to ensure we retain our world-beating reputation in research and development.
“Artificial intelligence has great potential to drive up productivity and enhance every industry throughout our economy,” he continues, “from more effective disease diagnosis to building smart homes. Today’s announcement is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, investing in skills and talent to drive high skilled jobs, growth and productivity across the UK.”
Graduate Level Research Receives Major Boost
One major function of this push on the UK’s Part is the wide expansion of artificial intelligence programs at the Graduate and post-Graduate levels.
This includes the creation of new Master’s degrees in Artificial Intelligence at major universities and 16 AI-dedicated centers throughout the UK University system in order to train Ph.D. candidates in AI development.
“The UK is not only the birthplace to the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing,” said UK Digital Secretary, Jeremy Wright, “but we are leading the way on work to ensure AI innovation has ethics at its core.
“We want to keep up this momentum and cement our reputation as pioneers in AI. Working with world class academic institutions and industry we will be able to train the next generation of top-tier AI talent and maintain the UK’s reputation as a trailblazer in emerging technologies.”
UK Aims to Continue AI Dominance in Europe as Rivals Invest Heavily in AI
As related in a recent report by the UK-based venture capital firm MMC Ventures [PDF], "Europe’s ecosystem of 1,600 AI startups is maturing and bringing creative destruction to new industries. While the UK is the powerhouse of European AI, hubs in Germany and France are thriving and may extend their influence in the decade ahead."
Recently, the German government issued a report entitled "AI made in Germany" which laid out the 3 billion euro investment that Germany was going to need to make over the next several years into AI in order to remain competitive globally.
France, meanwhile, has dedicated 1.5 billion euros through 2022 in order to remain relevant in the global marketplace as the US and China pull ahead, hoping to become an AI hub for Europe.
The UK, already fighting to keep up with the US and China, now sees itself having to fend off continental rivals as well.
There is reason for optimism in the UK though. The amount of venture capital investment in the UK's AI industry is growing, jumping 17% last year alone. This capital investment combined with government support represents a major increase in an already robust industry, so the UK is in a strong position to continue to be a leader in AI development going forward.
“Artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology in a range of sectors, enabling new products and services and transforming data science," says Professor Sir Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive. "It allows us to develop new approaches to challenges as diverse as early disease diagnosis and climate change.
“To maintain its leadership in AI, the UK will need a new generation of researchers, business leaders and entrepreneurs equipped with new skills. Working with partners across academia and industry, the centres announced today will provide the foundations for these future leaders.”