The UK government this week pledged yet more funding to AI-related initiatives as part of its ongoing bid to position the country at the forefront of the technology's development.

Mary Lennighan

March 7, 2024

2 Min Read

In his Spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt allocated a new £50 million funding package to the Alan Turing Institute, a data science and artificial intelligence R&D body located at the British Library. The move doubles the institute's funding and will, according to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), increase its ability to provide organisations with skills, open access infrastructure, and research resources, as well as training provision.

The state also launched an AI upskilling fund designed to help small businesses get to grips with AI. The £7.4 million fund is described as a pilot scheme to help SMEs unlock the opportunities associated with AI and develop the AI skills they will need in future.

The chancellor also disclosed that the AI Safety Institute – announced by the government late last year – has carried out the world's first evaluations by a government of frontier AI models before and after release, a sign, he claims, of the UK's advancement in the safe use of AI. And he shared that the government will publish a plan later this year outlining how it intends to manage access to the UK's public AI compute facilities.

All of the above plays into the narrative about the UK being a world-leader in AI. The trouble is, there are many other governments in the world banging the same drum, and as such, industry watchers tend to roll their eyes at any and all claims of national supremacy, at least at this stage of development of the technology.

But it would take more than that to part the politicians from their hyperbole.

"We are on track to become the world's next Silicon Valley," Hunt declared, reprising a refrain he has regularly trotted out over the past year and a half.

In his budget speech Hunt claimed that the UK has double the AI start-ups of anywhere else in Europe, double the venture capital investment, and a tech economy that is now double the size of Germany and three times that of France.

Naturally, he's on a mission to attract more investment into the UK, but throwing a few tens of millions at AI research still leaves the market some way short of turning itself into the next California tech hub.

That said, it forms part of a bigger picture. Last month the government announced plans to give regulators £10 million to prepare for the onerous task of regulating AI, as well as committing £90 million to the creation of nine new UK-based AI research hubs and announcing a partnership with the US on responsible AI, amongst other AI-related initiatives. And there will be more to come.

The UK is firmly backing the AI horse. Along with the vast majority of other global economies, telcos, equipment makers, tech companies...

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

You May Also Like