£7 million to back next wave of AI innovations

26 Apr 2024 10:43 AM

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) encouraged to bid for a share of £7 million for artificial intelligence (AI) projects.

SMEs looking to adopt AI solutions to address a business challenge in high-growth industries could receive a share of £7 million as two new competitions launch.

High-growth industries include:

  • agri-food
  • construction
  • transport and logistics
  • the creative industries

Supporting businesses

This funding is from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund and delivered by Innovate UK’s BridgeAI programme.

On top of the monetary support, the BridgeAI programme supports businesses by allowing them to tap into training and scientific expertise, as well as offering wider expert advice and guidance.

Feasibility studies

The first of these competitions is backed by £5 million in funding and will support a second round of feasibility studies.

Studies will support development of a range of AI solutions to address business challenges faced by high-growth industries, so they can take advantage of AI’s transformative opportunities.

Applications are encouraged from a lead SME looking to adopt AI, working collaboratively with an SME or academic partner.

Together they would look to develop AI solutions to solve an industry problem, using AI to improve business productivity.

Overcoming barriers

These solutions could help overcome a range of potential barriers and spark greater productivity, including:

  • the use of data to drive forward decision making
  • automating administrative tasks to free up more time for an organisation’s workforce
  • refining how supply chains are sourced and managed

The competition closes on 8 May 2024, and applicants can put forward a range of responsible and trustworthy AI solutions, which will all ramp up productivity.

It is aimed at SMEs who are looking to tackle a range of challenges either in collaboration with another small business or an academic institution.

Engaging with potential applicants

Ahead of the application deadline, UKRI has been engaging extensively with potential applicants, including an in-person workshop event and an online briefing session which both took place last month.

Watch the briefing event recording on the Innovate UK Business Connect website.

The second competition will allow existing round one projects working in areas such as fashion and farming, to apply for a share of £2 million.

These projects are now encouraged to apply for further investment, which will allow them to develop their ideas further into game-changing AI innovations.

The second competition also closes on 8 May 2024.

Transformative change

Previously funded projects in this competition include:

  • an AI-powered cloth recycling tool for use in the fashion industry
  • AI solutions that help fire and rescue services across the country move their fleets towards net zero
  • new solutions to detect and predict diseases in grape crops

These competitions underline the UK’s commitment to a pro-innovation approach to AI, which lies at the heart of its regulatory approach to the technology.

February’s response to the AI Regulation White Paper establishes the roadmap the UK government will follow to ensure AI innovations can deliver transformative change for people across the country.

For further details and support for applicants filling out the online application, see: feasibility studies for AI solutions: series two.

Defining technology of our generation

Minister for AI and Intellectual Property Viscount Camrose said:

AI is the defining technology of our generation, and we are backing businesses and academia to work hand-in-glove to bring the next wave of brilliant AI innovations to life.

These competitions are further evidence of our commitment to pursuing a pro-innovation approach to AI, which sits at the heart of our plans for how we can safely and successfully manage this technology.

There can be no doubt that AI is a technology which demands a team effort, whether that’s in our approach to safety, or exploring how we can harness its incredible opportunities.

By working together, we can tap into the enormous potential of AI to ramp up productivity and deliver transformative change.

Developing novel AI solutions

Dr Kedar Pandya, UKRI Technology Missions Fund Senior Responsible Owner and Executive Director of Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said:

These two new competitions funded through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund will help to develop novel AI solutions to boost productivity across many of the UK’s high-growth sectors.

By bringing together businesses and research organisations through these funding opportunities, we are helping to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies and deliver benefits to our society and the UK economy.