The UK Has AI Talent, but It's Not Enough - Latest Global News

The UK Has AI Talent, but It’s Not Enough

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It’s the kind of insanely ambitious investment that seems to only happen in Silicon Valley at the peak of a hype cycle: A loss-making, pre-product artificial intelligence startup raises $1 billion from SoftBank, Microsoft and Nvidia to finance a dizzying ambition for global domination. In fact, that deal was sealed in London last week when Wayve, which develops software for autonomous vehicles, announced Europe’s largest AI startup fundraiser.

If any British tech company lives up to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s desire to create its own Microsoft worth more than $1 trillion over the next decade, then Wayve is probably as good a choice as any. As a global pioneer in the hot field of embodied AI – interacting and learning with the environment – Wayve could sell the software for millions of self-driving cars if it spends its money wisely and executes its plans flawlessly. “Embodied AI will be a sector that creates trillion-dollar companies,” says Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO of Wayve. “And certainly our goal is to be one of them.”

Wayve’s seven-year history highlights the strengths of the UK technology industry: fundamental research from a world-leading university; Early funding through a vibrant start-up financing community; and a flexible post-Brexit regulatory regime that takes new technologies into account. However, Wayve’s latest round of funding also exposes one of London’s persistent shortcomings: the growth capital needed to accelerate the company’s expansion is coming from abroad. If Wayve keeps its promise, it will now be foreign investors who benefit the most.

That may not matter much to Wayve, which has already opened an office in Silicon Valley and expanded beyond the UK, which is what it needs to do if it wants to become a global industry leader. “Our roots in Cambridge and London are very important to me personally. But we are a global company building a global product,” New Zealand-born Kendall, who was a star academic at Cambridge University before founding Wayve, tells me in a video interview from Seattle.

It’s been a good month for London’s reputation as a global AI hotspot. Last week, two fast-growing U.S. companies — Scale AI, a training data company, and CoreWeave, an AI-focused cloud computing provider — announced they would open their European headquarters in London. Additionally, CoreWeave is investing $1 billion in data centers in the United Kingdom. Hunt has also been busy this week presenting Britain’s achievements to technology leaders at the Chancellor’s Buckinghamshire estate in Dorneywood.

The UK is home to several top-ranked universities producing AI researchers, as well as global talent magnet Google DeepMind, which is one of the strongest industrial AI labs in the world with more than 2,000 employees. “At the end of the day, talent is still the most important thing in this field. London is incredibly important,” says Jordan Jacobs, managing partner of Radical Ventures, a Toronto-based AI investment fund.

But before British politicians indulge in too much congratulations, it is worth noting how quickly the AI ​​industry is developing in the rest of the world, particularly in China, France and the United Arab Emirates, and questioning the extent to which the benefits of AI exist Revolution spreads to the rest of the economy.

At the top of the AI ​​food chain, giant US technology companies still dominate. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the “Magnificent Seven” of AI-obsessed U.S. tech companies — Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Meta, Nvidia and Tesla — spent about $200 billion on research and development last year half of all corresponding public and private sector spending in Europe. It also attracted 73 percent of the $42.5 billion invested globally in the AI ​​sector last year, according to data firm CB Insights. In a world so dominated by the US, there is a risk that the UK will become little more than a research offshoot.

As noted in a recent paper by the AI ​​Now Institute, the UK’s much-touted success in AI on a narrow range of metrics has masked an irregular policy framework, poor computing infrastructure and a waste of public sector data used for training AI models are invaluable. Since 2010, the UK has announced eleven different growth plans or industrial strategies, none of which have resulted in significantly increased investment. The UK accounts for just 1.4 percent of total global computing capacity, behind Italy, Russia and Finland.

The UK certainly has good reason to applaud its ambitious AI researchers and entrepreneurs. But the country desperately needs to deepen and expand the adoption of the technology to fully realize its benefits.

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