Britain’s AI sector expected to get £100m extra funding in budget

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Jeremy Hunt is planning to provide a budget boost to Britain’s growing artificial intelligence sector through a doubling of funding for the Alan Turing Institute – the national body for data science and artificial intelligence.

Despite being restricted in his scope for pre-election giveaways by the weakness of the public finances, the chancellor is expected to announce a five-year package of funding worth £100m.

The Treasury said the money would allow the Turing – set up in 2015 and named after the pioneering computer scientist and mathematician who died in 1954 – to make fresh advances in data science and AI.

The extra funding will be allocated to research in three areas where AI is seen as having an important role to play: transforming healthcare, protecting the environment, and strengthening defence and national security. Treasury sources said the money would have a direct impact on the public through better healthcare and tackling biodiversity challenges.

Since becoming chancellor in October 2022, Hunt has repeatedly stated his desire to turn Britain into a science superpower and for the country to become the next Silicon Valley. He has announced plans to harness the power of Britain’s pension funds to emulate America’s success in turning inventions into commercial propositions.

Hunt believes AI offers a way of improving Britain’s poor productivity record. Recent research has suggested the adoption of generative AI could add up to $4.4tn (£3.5tn) to the global economy each year.

Sources said the chancellor wanted to use the technological revolution to unlock economic growth and enable researchers to make new discoveries in a range of areas including medicine, aerospace and climate change – and benefit every corner of the UK. Building on past projects and using the UK’s unique health data sources, Hunt thinks the new funding will allow the Turing to make an important contribution to the UK’s health and wellbeing.

A Treasury source said: “With the UK home to a third of Europe’s AI companies, investing in this pivotal technology is a vital opportunity to grow the economy and deliver a brighter future for Britain.

“By backing the Turing Institute, we’re taking a further step in our plan to ensure that we are at the forefront of shaping how technology transforms our lives for the better.”

An international league table of AI – using a series of indicators to measure investment, innovation and implementation – put the UK in fourth place, behind the US, China and Singapore and just ahead of Canada, South Korea and Israel.

The Alan Turing Institute is largely government funded and has the goal of being the “best place in the world for data science and AI research, collaboration, and business”. It works with academia, industry and government to “advance world-class research and apply it to national and global challenges, build skills for the future, and drive an informed public conversation”.

Its projects have included reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, developing a more accurate picture of the UK’s health through a collaboration with the Office for National Statistics, using machine learning to understand online abuse of Premier League footballers and harnessing AI to map habitats in the Peak District.

The institute said: “Our aim is that 10 years from now, the Turing will be internationally recognised as a centre of research and innovation that harnesses the power of data science and artificial intelligence to make a lasting impact on the world’s most pressing societal issues.”

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