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AI and Data at the heart of UK Industrial Strategy

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The UK faces huge opportunities but major competition with the likes of China and Canada investing mega-bucks to establish centres of excellence and gravity.

The UK Government is putting AI and Data at the heart of its Industrial Strategy alongside the other Grand Challenges and the time to act is now.

Power on button in the middle of concentric circles.

Coming full circle

At the beginning of July, I start a new role at Innovate UK.  My 6th in fact.  I’ll be the new Director for AI and the Data Economy.  My first role was as the Technologist covering Information and Communication Technologies so I’ve come back home, via enabling technologies, high value manufacturing and strategy.  Hopefully, I’ve picked up a lot of useful ideas, approaches and questions on the way.

I am keenly aware of how incredibly hot AI and data are right now.  AI’s popularity comes and goes but it is more mainstream in the national and global consciousness now.

Robot face with finger pointing to its temple.

Our role is clear

My main challenge, I believe, is to ensure the value the role Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, and that of the businesses and researchers we support, is clear for all to see and that this stimulates more strategic innovation across the economy.  I’ll be reaching out to our partners in this across business, government and academia.

Fortunately, we have an expert team on hand in Innovate UK to help me with this, some focused on digital technologies and data (e.g. satellite) and some focused on the applications of technologies in different challenge areas.  Many of the latter are now looking towards AI to see what it can do for them.

Lighted data streams.

We need innovation in data economy

I was developing AI prototypes and demonstrators 10-15 years ago, mainly in machine learning (symbolic mainly, since you ask) and natural language processing.  I know the hunger for data – I’ve felt it.

I also know the joy of getting my hands on data, even if that involved experimenting on actual soldiers (who were amazingly patient – no probes were attached to them, they just had to rate documents on how relevant they appeared to be to them) or my company colleagues to get it.

Robot hands holding a tablet showing data.

Data in high enough volume and noisy enough to be realistic.  A well-functioning data economy is needed to underpin the broad, successful and sustainable use of AI.  We need innovation on the data economy side and that will play to the UK’s experimental side.

I have a lot to get my head around.  I’m open to new ideas and fresh approaches so please come and talk to us about how the UK can continue to push on frontiers of AI and data, by businesses and for businesses.


Contact Zoë on Twitter @ZoeWWWebster

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