Britain’s AI industry must avoid brain-drain to the US, MPs warn

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Britain must avoid a “brain-drain” of its top expertise on artificial intelligence to the US  if it is to maintain its position as a world leader in the technology, MPs have been warned.

A report published on Wednesday by the All Party Parliamentary Group for AI claimed that the UK has all of the basic elements necessary to compete effectively in a global race to develop AI technology. The Big Innovation Centre and Deep Knowledge Analytics collected and produced the report.

However, it cited one of the biggest risks was the steady drain of talent to Silicon Valley from Britain’s top tech companies and universities.

The report outlined the current state of AI expertise in the UK and examined more than 1000 companies involved in the sector.

It noted that big advances in AI technology were being made at UK universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, but said there was a disconnect with the UK’s ability to commercialise these advances by building large national champions.

The acquisition of many UK technology companies such as DeepMind, a London-based AI firm acquired by Google in 2014, was an additional issue, the report said.

It concluded that Britain needs to follow more closely strategies developed in the US and China to use national research breakthroughs to establish start-ups and university spin-outs.

This follows a commitment from Chinese president Xi Jinping to spend $150bn (£116bn) making China the global leader in the AI by 2030.

In contrast, the UK government has committed £1bn in AI sector funding and private funding in UK-based AI has now exceed $5bn (£3.8bn).

Dmitry Kaminskiy, who was one of the authors of the report and co-founder of Deep Knowledge Analytics, said:  “It should be noted that Chinese companies have been proactive and even aggressive in their investments, especially compared to that of the activity of US firms.”

It said “strategically important” areas such as education and government technology lacked development and investment.

The report prepared by the Big Innovation Centre and Deep Knowledge Analytics said China and the US were emerging as the dominant powers in an international AI race.

However, it said the UK is well positioned to become an international AI leader in certain areas such as healthcare and financial technology.

The UK is also a leader in AI ethics, governance and safety, according to the 2200 page report.

Lord Clement-Jones CBE, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI and Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, said the UK was approaching an “inflexion point” in the development of its AI industry.