Industrial strategy focuses on AI

Ambitions to put the UK at the forefront of a global artificial intelligence and data revolution are a key focus of the Government’s new industrial strategy, unveiled last week.

The strategy aims to provide a long term vision for how the country can boost its economic growth, address its productivity performance and embrace the opportunities of technological change. The white paper published last week follows extensive consultation with industry.

Artificial intelligence has been identified as one of four “Grand Challenges” in the strategy, and the AI industry is also set to benefit from one of four sector deals confirmed by the Government.

Each of the Grand Challenges represents an open invitation to business, academia and civil society to work with the Government to innovate, develop new technologies and ensure the UK makes the most of global opportunities.

In the case of AI, the strategy points out that artificial intelligence and machine learning are general purpose technologies already starting to transform the global economy. They can be seen as new industries in their own right, it adds, but they are also transforming business models across many sectors as they deploy vast datasets to identify better ways of doing complex tasks.

Embedding AI across the UK will create thousands of good quality jobs and drive economic growth, it concludes.

The other three Grand Challenges – defined as global, potentially transformative trends that the UK must embrace – are clean growth, ageing society and the future of mobility.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength.

“We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries.”

The White Paper also focuses on five foundations of productivity – which are ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places – and seeks to set out a clear vision for each.

It includes a pledge invest a further £725m over the next three years in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The Government had previously committed £1bn to the first wave of ISCF projects, including an £86m investment in robotics hubs across the UK.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced in his recent Budget an ambition to increase the UK’s level of investment in research and development from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier said: “We are optimistic that through greater investment in R&D – and especially through the application of advanced industrial digital technologies like AI and robotics – we can support many more new and existing manufacturing industries, raising productivity and creating thousands of new highly skilled and well paid jobs.”

Terry Scuoler, outgoing EEF chief executive, said: “The introduction of a new industrial strategy is key to supporting efforts to improve productivity and invest in not just current industries, but those of the future which are set to radically change the ways in which people live and work.”