It’s time to get serious about artificial intelligence (AI). From shaking up the healthcare sector to tweaking beer recipes, entrepreneurs are already using algorithms and machine learning to improve society. And given that adopting the technology could add another £630bn to the British economy by 2035, it’s hardly surprising that the government has unveiled a plan to ensure that British businesses continue to lead the revolution.
Having joined forces earlier this year with leaders of industry and academia to find a way to best boost the domestic AI industry, the government has outlined an ambitious plan to strengthen the industry by boosting access to data, improving the supply of skills, maximising AI research and spurring the uptake of AI. While big companies like Facebook and Google currently have an advantage over startups in terms of having access to more raw data, the review may turn this on its head. For instance, it recommended the launch of data trusts to improve the security and the ease of sharing data, while proposing that research should be readable for machines. Additionally, it suggested that new standards should be introduced where the right to read research equates to the right to mine data.
However, no industry can grow without qualified workers. So it’s hardly surprising that the review took special aim at bridging the skills gap in the sector by championing diversity and breaking down stereotypes. Furthermore, it urged the industry to sponsor a programme of master’s-degree-level AI courses, while encouraging leading universities to establish 200 PhD places dedicated to AI and create a fellowship programme in conjunction with the Alan Turing Institute, which it proposed should become a national institute for AI.
But perhaps the report’s most notable recommendations were to propose the launch of an official UK AI Council and that the Department for International Trade extend its current support programme to cover AI businesses. Finally, the researchers suggested that the government should develop a programme to spread AI best practice into the public sector.
Commenting on the review, Karen Bradley, culture secretary, said: “I want the UK to lead the way in artificial intelligence. It has the potential to improve our everyday lives – from healthcare to robots that perform dangerous tasks. We already have some of the best minds in the world working on artificial intelligence and the challenge now is to build a strong partnership with industry and academia to cement our position as the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.”
Given that the UK has already birthed impressive AI startups like DeepMind, it’s exciting to imagine what following these recommendations could do for Britain’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.