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UK Autumn Budget Reveals more Investment in AI, Driverless Cars, 5G


Technology— and AI in particular— was a key theme of Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget Speech.

Artificial Intelligence and driverless technology featured prominently in UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s budget speech, in which he announced new investment and tax breaks for technology companies, in the latest bid to shore up the sector ahead of Brexit.

Life sciences, immersive technology, 5G, and FinTech were other key fields Hammond mentioned in his extensive speech.

“A new tech business is funded every hour and I want that to be every half hour,” Hammond said . “So today we invest over £500 million in a range of initiatives from artificial intelligence to 5G and full-fibre broadband.”

Of those £500 million, £75 million have been earmarked to go to AI. The money will be invested in the creation of “data trusts” that can facilitate the training of AIs, and in the establishment of new grants and scholarships for 450 PhD students in the field.

The Chancellor also announced the creation of “the world’s first national advisory body for artificial intelligence” , entrusted with developing ethical standards for technologies using data and AI, and carrying out independent reviews of  how the technology is being deployed.

The government’s initial investment to launch the new organisation, called the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, is of £9 million.

“Today’s Budget contribution to build knowledge and expertise in AI is welcome. However, creating a greater supply of AI skills is only part of the solution. Importantly, continued engagement with government, as well as bold thinking and strategic initiatives will be necessary to put the UK at the very top of the AI league table,” Ken Mulvany, founder of UK AI company BenevolentAI commented.

“Hopefully this announcement will be the first of many more commitments that will strengthen the UK’s position as a global AI leader.”

Hammond also went as far as setting the date for the advent of “genuine driverless vehicles” in the UK as 2021. He announced that new rules  will be created to make it easier  to trial fully self-driving cars —without human backup drivers— on the roads of Britain.

Hammond underlined that driverless cars have the potential to become a  £28 billion, 27,000-employee  industry in the UK. Accordingly, the budget included a series of new measurers  aimed to foster the automotive sector— from new charging stations for electric cars, to investment in geospatial data, which are key to power driverless vehicles.

About £64 million will also be allotted to retrain workers that are likely to lose their jobs to the onslaught of AI and autonomous vehicles.

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