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What are the prospects and challenges for the UK when it comes to the development and application of AI?

In the latest issue of New Electronics we take a look at the economic and technological rivalry that exists between the US and China.
There’s no doubt that with China’s plans to invest billions in artificial intelligence (AI) in the next few years, both it and the US will end up dominating this market in terms of the deployment of AI.

AI is already being used in the private, public and social sectors and certainly has the potential to transform them.

While no other country can come close to the investment being made in the US and China, in Europe the UK has established a position of leadership.

A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that the UK is now a recognised leader in health and medical technology and is leading Europe in terms of the density of AI start-ups.

The impact of AI on the broader economy is harder to predict but, according to the report, the UK is well positioned to benefit as it has more AI ready businesses, although much will depend on investment priorities and available skills.

Despite these strengths the report urges a degree of ‘haste’ as it warns that there is likely to be a growing performance gap between early and late adopters. The UK needs to nurture the sector if it is to realise the benefits of AI.

Interestingly, surveys of different sectors – from retail to banking – have shown that companies that are failing to invest in AI are reporting a much weaker financial performance, when compared to the front runners – anything up to 30 per cent – and when it comes to high tech that difference jumps to over 80 per cent.

While the UK has taken some bold steps and certainly has strengths in terms of the science and its policy leadership when it comes to AI – highlights include, strong research, start-up activity and automation potential – the McKinsey report found that while the UK has impressive pockets of innovation, there remains an on-going failure to scale business more broadly. It also found that despite a large pool of AI talent, and the UK still remains attractive to talent from overseas, it faces an on-going shortage of people with advanced technological skills.
And, while the UK has a strong academic foundation it is failing to translate research into commercial success.

The UK government has invested over £1billion in AI, in both academia and business, and established a new AI Council to drive teaching at universities but when you see what China is investing and how its private sector is pushing AI, it throws into stark relief what the challenges are facing the UK.

Despite that, with a concerted, joined up and forward looking effort from all sectors of the economy the UK is well placed to develop and use AI’s benefits across the wider economy.

Neil Tyler

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I think the implementation of AI on a mass scale will definitely have benefits. It will be interesting to see if the UK are able to fully nurture and develop its AI industry. Thanks for the post!

Posted by: Jaimie , 06/08/2019

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