The Government has been urged to help the UK become the world leader in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI): to boost productivity, advance health care, improve services for customers and unlock £630bn for the UK economy.

Experts from industry and academia have unveiled new proposals for how Government can work with industry to stay ahead of the competition and grow the UK’s use of AI across the economy – from smarter scheduling of operations in health care, to hiring on-demand self-driving cars.

The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, published in January, identified AI as a major, high-potential opportunity for the UK to build a word-leading future sector of our economy.

The independent review, Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK, was announced as part of the Digital Strategy in March, and led by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Jérôme Pesenti, Chief Executive of BenevolentTech. The reviewers were asked to report on how this pioneering technology can best thrive and grow in the UK and will inform BEIS and DCMS policymaking relevant to this exciting new sector.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

Artificial intelligence presents us with a unique opportunity to build on our strengths and track record of research excellence by leading the development and deployment of this transformational technology. This important review exemplifies the world-class expertise the UK already has in AI, demonstrating the huge social and economic benefits its use can bring. We will continue to work with the sector in the coming months to secure a comprehensive Sector Deal that make the UK the go to place for AI and helps us grasp the opportunities that lie ahead.

The report makes 18 recommendations for how to make the UK the best place in the world for businesses developing AI to start, grow, and thrive including:

  • Skills: increasing the UK’s AI expertise through new initiatives including an industry-funded Masters programme, and conversion courses to bring a broader range of people into the field;
  • Increasing uptake: helping organisations and workers understand how AI can boost their productivity and make better products and services, including public services;
  • Data: ensuring that people and organisations can be confident that use of data for AI is safe, secure and fair by making more data available, including from publicly-funded research; and
  • Research: building on the UK’s strong record in cutting-edge AI research, including making the Alan Turing Institute a national institute for AI.

These recommendations will now be carefully considered in discussions towards a potential Industrial Strategy sector deal between Government and the AI industry.

As part of the Industrial Strategy, the Government has increased investment in research and development over the next 4 years by £4.7 billion to create jobs and raise living standards, including through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The Business Secretary announced in April that the first £1 billion of investment is being made in six key areas in 2017/18, driving progress and innovation that will create opportunities for businesses and sectors across the UK. More information can be found on the BEIS web site here.

This year’s SAE AEROTECH international conference was held at the International Conference Centre in Fort Worth, Texas. The event is a platform for the latest in aerospace technology and capabilities, across a broad range of disciplines – including whole aircraft validation, structures, systems and propulsion. Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) technology experts Paul Clarke and Mark Summers attended the conference and the International Steering Committee Group meetings.

The conference was opened by Orlando Carvalho, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics business. Orlando spoke about how Lockheed are pushing the boundaries of technology, with a particular focus on four key areas: sensor fusion, hybrid wing body tanker, next-generation unmanned aircraft, and compact fusion.

Orlando also shared Lockheed’s future vision of integrating a nuclear fusion reactor into an aircraft, moving towards a demonstration stage.

Kristen Baldwin from the Department of Defence shared some of the cyber security challenges the Department faces, and spoke about the pace and rapid application of commercial off-the shelf technology (something that will be discussed in more detail in the Institute’s forthcoming cyber security blog).

David Seymour, Senior Vice President for Integrated Operations at American Airlines, described the challenges around data for his organisation. American Airlines (AA) is in the process of a major aircraft renewal program; as part of this activity AA is developing a strategy to better leverage the benefits of data. David spoke about some of the challenges of the seamless integration of data, systems capabilities, fleet capabilities and how they are employing new skill sets, working differently with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and developing capabilities in new technologies such as machine learning to continue the organisation’s data evolution.

There was a strong digital focus throughout many of the presentations and the conference itself. The content was wide ranging, from cyber security to complex modelling and simulation of components, manufacturing process, systems validation and cabin management. Bombardier presented their approach to a whole aircraft validation platform, sharing the company’s vision of working with their supply chain to improve their time to market and connectivity.

Paul Clarke, ATI’s Lead Technologist, said:

Attending the SAE digital and data steering group enabled the Institute to present a UK perspective on its priorities around digital transformation in aerospace. This follows on from the progress the ATI has made on influencing the adoption of digital into the aerospace sector, and echoes some of the findings published in our INSIGHT paper on Digital Transformation.

Two major independent reports have been published in 2017 that show the beneficial impacts of government funding for innovation on the performance of UK businesses.

The first report, published in March 2017, was an independent study commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).  The research conducted by Frontier Economics used a ‘propensity score matching’ approach and looked at the impacts on business survival, employment and turnover for up to 5 years after receiving government support for innovation projects (up to 2013).

The method involved matching companies that had received funding from Innovate UK to similar companies that had not (based on sector, size, company age etc.) to create a suitable control group. The study then compared the relative performance of these companies and found that the innovation funding had a statistically significant impact on the future outcomes of these companies. These companies were found to be more likely to grow quicker and much less likely to go bankrupt.

Table: Key headline results of the impact of innovation funding on business performance

Business Survival Effect Employment Effect Turnover Effect
+15% (from 75% to 90%) 30-40 extra people £5-10m extra revenue

Source: BEIS (March 2017), The impact of public support for innovation on firm outcomes

A second report was published in August 2017 by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) by researchers from Warwick and Aston Business Schools. That study took a similar approach, although it reviewed a broader range of innovation funding to include the UK Research Councils, as well as Innovate UK.

The results showed that companies who participated in research projects grew their turnover and employment 6% faster in the three years after the project and around 25% faster in the six years after, compared to similar companies, which did not receive innovation funding support.  The study also identified that the impacts were larger for companies in high-technology manufacturing sectors.

Peter Willis, Senior Economist at the Aerospace Technology Institute, said:

Both of these reports highlight the very positive impacts that public funding for innovation can have on the performance of UK businesses. Investing in technology is vital to ensure that UK businesses are able to grow and improve the productivity of the wider UK economy”.

Previous ATI publications have highlighted the benefits of government support to technology and innovation more broadly, in terms of the impacts on business performance, crowding in private investment and large spillovers that benefit the wider UK economy.

Peter said:

It’s not easy to use control groups in the aerospace industry to test the effectiveness of R&T funding, so we rely on a variety of different methods including modelling, project case studies and long-term monitoring and tracking of project outcomes. Plans are already in place with BEIS for future impact evaluations of the ATI programme”.

The ATI has developed extensive market and economic modelling capabilities to project the potential impact of industrial strategy and R&T funding on the aerospace sector.  In a recent ATI INSIGHT, Economic Impact of UK Aerospace Industrial Strategy, the ATI’s analysis suggests Government investments in aerospace could be benefiting the UK by more than £100 billion (both direct returns and spillovers) over the next 20 years, creating and safeguarding 95,000 UK jobs.

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