Are the UK’s plans to spend £100m to produce AI chips ‘too little, too late’

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The UK government is planning to spend upwards of £100m to help with the production of computer chips from the likes of Nvidia, AMD and Intel which are used to power artificial intelligence.

This forms part of a drive to build a national AI resource in Britain, and the funds will be used to order key components from major chipmakers. The government is apparently in advanced discussions with Nvidia about buying 5000 graphic processing units or GPUs.

The move is an attempt to develop a resource similar to those being developed in the US and elsewhere, but it appears that the UK government is attempting all this ‘on the cheap’ as officials involved with the project have suggested that the £100m being proposed is far too low to enable the UK to effectively compete with the likes of the US, China and the EU.

GPUs play a critical role in processing and are able to run the complex actions required by AI.

The announcement follows the publication of the government’s National Semiconductor Strategy which plans for a £1bn investment over 10 years in semiconductor research, design and production.

As with that announcement this plan to invest in AI is being described as being ‘too little, too late’ and is massively dwarfed by the billions being spent by the US and EU.

UK Research and Innovation, a funding body, is driving the efforts to place chip orders and is working alongside the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

A government spokesperson said, “We are committed to supporting a thriving environment for compute in the UK which maintains our position as a global leader across science, innovation and technology.

“The additional money being delivered through UKRI will complement the separate £100m investment to establish the Foundation Model Taskforce. Announcements on the AI Research Resource will follow in due course.”

When you see the amount of resource required to develop semiconductors or advance AI questions have to be raised as to whether the UK government actually understands the industry and what is required to be truly a ‘global leader’.

In truth, £100m is neither here, nor there, in the great scheme of things. 

As with so many announcements made by this government they seem to prefer vacuous statements about making the UK a 'world leader', whatever that means, than actually delivering a viable strategy.