Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
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Margot James' statement on AI Sector Deal

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries welcomes the UK's AI deal published today.

The Government today publishes its Sector Deal for Artificial Intelligence: a major collaboration with industry to secure the UK’s global leadership in artificial intelligence and data.

From how we travel, to how we live and work, AI holds transformative implications for every aspect of our lives and for every sector of the economy.

For the UK, the economic prize is clear: potentially adding 10% to our GDP by 2030 if adoption is widespread, with a productivity boost of up to 30%.

In pursuing that prize, we start with strong foundations. The UK was recently ranked first among OECD countries in Oxford Insights’ AI Government Readiness Index, and is home already to globally-recognised AI companies including Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon Health.

This success is supported by the UK’s strong combination of world-leading universities that drive skills and R&D; a thriving venture capital market for AI that leads among economies of comparable scale; and trusted universal public institutions like our NHS that can pioneer data-driven innovation and connect the power of AI to the public good

The Sector Deal that we have published today therefore outlines how we are building on those foundations and on the independent review led by Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Jérôme Pesenti, reflecting that review’s spirit of partnership and consultation between Government, industry and academia.

In skills, we have made it the UK’s ambition to be home to the world’s best and brightest minds in artificial intelligence.

We will support the Alan Turing Institute’s plans for expansion, to become the national academic institute for AI and data science.

We will create 200 additional PhDs in AI and related disciplines per annum by 2020-21, rising to at least 1,000 Government-backed PhD places at any one time by 2025.

We have set a target of 200 places for an industry-funded AI Masters programme, and we will introduce an internationally competitive Turing Fellowship Programme in AI.

We are also doubling Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas to 2,000 a year, to attract the brightest minds to the UK.

In infrastructure, we will ensure that the ambition of our AI sector is matched by the means of delivery: in communications, in data and in supercomputer capacity.

In telecoms, we are investing over £1billion to become a country with world class digital capabilities - from 5G mobile networks to full-fibre broadband.

In supercomputer capacity, we are pleased to announce as part of the Sector Deal that the University of Cambridge will make the UK’s fastest academic supercomputer - capable of solving the largest scientific and industrial challenges at breakneck speed - available to AI technology companies.

That complements Government’s support for start-ups’ access to hardware via the Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage, and builds upon Cambridge’s existing track record as a hub for AI and technology.

And we are also investing in data. Because data is infrastructure. Just as roads help us reach a destination, data helps us reach a decision.

For AI systems, data is the experience they learn from to be able to process information and interact usefully with the world and the people and citizens who live it.

This Government has always valued the economic benefits of pioneers having access to high quality public datasets.

But some of the most useful datasets for AI are those that organisations are reluctant to share with others – perhaps, because they have commercial value.

The world’s first Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation will therefore work to unlock the usefulness of that data, while protecting its value for those organisations and, most importantly, keeping people’s data secure.

We want AI-led growth to be both empowering and inclusive - and that applies to our approach on data. But it also informs our commitment that the benefits of AI should be felt across the whole country.

The Sector Deal makes a commitment to establish clusters and regional tech hubs, designed to power AI growth, across the entire country.

We will invest £21m in Tech City UK over four years so it can expand into Tech Nation - thus transforming the UK from a series of standalone tech hubs into a powerful network that can place the nation firmly at the top of global tech rankings.

The new Tech Nation’s AI programme will operate in two or three key clusters where there is AI expertise, and a potential to provide the mentoring and growth support that’s needed for ambitious AI businesses to thrive.

Industry shares our ambition to link promising AI clusters into a powerful network of high growth AI businesses.

And the Sector Deal confirms that. For instance, Barclays are launching the bank’s first Scottish ‘Eagle Lab’ in Edinburgh in a new partnership with the UK’s largest tech incubator, CodeBase, to help AI businesses go from start-up to scale-up.

Taken together, these measures send a signal to business, science and research communities on AI around the world. The UK will attract talent, the UK will invest, and the UK will lead on standards and ethics.

That message is made clear by the investment that industry has brought. In total, their investment with Government forms an investment package of almost £1billion. And that sits alongside the £250m already set aside for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, and the £1.7bn that has been announced under the cross-sectoral Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund so far.

Our ambition in AI will not stop at this Sector Deal. This is only the start of UK plans to seize the opportunities of modern technology in and ensure that it follows the highest ethical standards in doing so.

By doing so we will make sure we continue to build a Britain that is fit for the future.

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