AI Sector Deal - one year on


To mark the first anniversary of the UK Sector Deal on Artificial Intelligence (AI), between the UK Government and industry, a progress update has been published.

The preceding 12 months has included substantial growth in funding and business expansion in the AI sector. According to Tech Nation, venture capital investment into the UK's AI base has risen almost sixfold over the last five years, and in 2018 AI companies in the UK raised almost double the amount of those in France and Germany combined.

The UK is home to a third of Europe's AI companies - twice as many as any other European country. The UK was also ranked equal first in the Open Data Barometer, which measures countries according to how governments are publishing and using open data for accountability, innovation and social impact.

To date, actions arising from the Sector Deal have focused on building skills, talent and leadership, promoting adoption of AI across sectors and across regions. There has also been in work to ensure that AI and related technologies are used safely and ethically.

Developments have covered the areas identified by the UK Government's Industrial Strategy as being the foundation of productivity.


i) Business Environment

The Government aims to create a business environment that secures the UK's position as the best place to start and grow an AI business. To support this aim, it has put in place a number of measures.

The AI Council was formed bringing together leaders from academia, industry and the public sector with Tabitha Goldstaub as its Chair and Business Champion and Dame Wendy Hall as the Skills Champion.

The Office for Artificial Intelligence was created within Government to oversee the AI and Data Grand Challenge and delivery of the commitments set out in the AI Sector Deal.

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation was also established to provide independent expertise on how to ensure that AI and data-driven technologies are used safely and ethically.

To promote the UK's AI work globally, the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national institute for data science and AI, signed an agreement with the DATAIA Institute of France to strengthen Anglo-French collaboration on research of shared interest.

The Institute also initiated agreements with three Japanese on AI and robotics research.


ii) Places

Government policy aims to ensure all parts of the UK benefit from the opportunities of AI and the data-driven economy.

As part of this policy, £50m is being invested into five new centres of excellence in digital pathology and AI. The centres are based in Coventry, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Oxford. A further investment of up to £50m will be made available to scale up the programme.

The new Bayes Centre in Edinburgh also received £30m of funding as a centre of data science and AI to develop next generation applications of AI.


iii) People 

In February 2019, an AI skills and talent package was announced, including funding for doctoral training at universities, fellowships and new AI Masters places.


iv) Infrastructure

The Sector Deal commits to tackling practical and cultural barriers to sharing public and privately held data.

The Government, together with Innovate UK and the Open Data Institute, set up pilot projects to explore a data sharing framework called a data trust - a legal structure that provides independent stewardship of data. The objective was to see whether this framework could be used to increase access to data while retaining trust. The finding and recommendations were published in April 2019, and found demand for and benefits from the data trust idea.


v) Ideas

Working with the AI consultancy, Faculty, the Government has worked to identify opportunities to increase productivity and service quality through the application of AI and related technologies.

In 2018, the Government announced funding of £3m for three research projects into how businesses can make the best use of AI in insurance and law, as well as analysing consumer attitudes to AI. Further funding of up to £79m is available to new AI programmes to transform engineering, urban planning and healthcare.


Looking ahead, 2019 will see the AI Council hold its first meeting and an interim report from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation into the use of data in shaping people's online experiences, and in the potential for bias in decision-making using algorithms.

Progress in attracting mid and senior AI talent is also expected through the Alan Turing Institute and the Masters and PHD programmes already underway. Further work is also expected to carry forward the data trust idea.


Read the original  AI Sector Deal Report

Read the Year 1 Progress Update