‘Booming’ artificial intelligence and robotics sector in line for £17m boost

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Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics which can ‘transform how we live, work, travel and learn’ are in line for a boost in the Government's digital strategy for the UK.

Universities will get £17m to help them develop pioneering robotics and AI as part of the plans to support the ‘booming’ sector, which is behind smartphone voice and touch recognition technology and digital assistants such as the iPhones Siri.

AI also forms the bedrock of video games and music and film recommendations services, as well as improving online customer services, and is used in fraud detection tools used by banks.

Among the projects supported with the money from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is a move by the University of Manchester to develop autonomous robots for hazardous environments such as nuclear facilities.

Researchers at Imperial College London will use some of the funds to try and make advances in the field of surgical micro-robotics.

A major review of AI will also be carried out by Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and BenevolentTech chief executive Jerome Pesenti.

The move to include AI in the digital strategy, to be launched on Wednesday, comes after the consultancy Accenture estimated the sector could add in the region of £654bn to the UK economy by 2035.

“Britain has a proud history of digital innovation – from the earliest days of computing to Sir Tim Berners-Lees development of the World Wide Web,” Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said.

“We are already pioneers in todays artificial intelligence revolution and the digital strategy will build on our strengths to make sure UK-based scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs continue to be at the forefront.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Investment in robotics and artificial intelligence will help make our economy more competitive, build on our world-leading reputation in these cutting-edge sectors and help us create new products, develop more innovative services and establish better ways of doing business.

“Innovation is at the heart of our industrial strategy and the launch of the Government's digital strategy underlines our commitment to this vital sector.

“By supporting British businesses and investing in dynamic fields such as robotics and AI, we will help put the UK at the forefront of global innovation."

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