London has been named the artificial intelligence (AI) capital of Europe, despite Paris overtaking it as the most attractive European city for investors. The findings coincide with the opening day of London Tech Week, an annual event that draws delegates from the international tech community to the UK capital.
The CognitionX-produced report commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan found that London is home to 758 AI companies — double the number of closest rivals Paris and Berlin combined — specialising in more than 30 industries, including insurance, finance and law.
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While fintech remains the leader in the UK technology sector, investment in AI companies grew by more than 50% in 2017 to more than £200m. This included big deals for companies such as Babylon Health, Callsign and Starship Technologies.
“There are few areas of innovation that have the power to define our future economy and society more than artificial intelligence,” said Sadiq Khan ahead of London Tech Week.
“The research describes a city with a rich technology ecosystem, a strong pipeline of AI innovation and an academic and investment base set up for the long-term.
“London’s unique global status as a capital of finance, business, government and technology is our standout asset. Everything entrepreneurs need is here in one place — not least access to clients.”
However, a report by financial service provider Ernst & Young, also published today, suggests that not all investors feel the same way. According to the study, Paris has overtaken London as the most attractive European city for investors, citing Brexit as one of the main factors. Yet despite Paris overtaking London, the UK as a whole remains top of the list for foreign direct investment.
While the country’s decision to leave the EU has resulted in uncertainty for some businesses, figures show that investment in UK tech companies doubled last year, leading Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock to describe Britain as being “full of dynamic digital dynamos.”
It’s London Tech week. Figures show investment in UK tech businesses doubled last year. Britain is full of dynamic digital dynamos https://t.co/07nD9qy4c6
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) 11 June 2018
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Elsewhere, large economies have seen investments in technology help their expansion, with emerging tech hubs aiding growth in Beijing, Berlin and California.
France has been investing heavily in AI, with the unveiling of its national strategy for artificial intelligence in March pledging €1.5bn of investment across the next five years to support research in the field and provide a boost to startups.
In addition to its national strategy, France has drawn investment from key AI players such as Google, which is expanding its Paris office with a new AI research centre. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s $30m investment includes the country’s first school dedicated to AI. Facebook also announced a further €10m for the Paris research centre it created in 2015.
The election of President Emmanuel Macron was among the reasons cited for Paris overtaking London for the first time since the Ernst & Young survey began in 2003. Coinciding with Macron’s inauguration, France won 31% more investments in 2017 compared to 2016, whereas the UK’s total increase was only 6%.
Macron is a firm believer that AI will disrupt business models and wants to stay ahead of the pack, telling Wired that “there is a huge acceleration and as always the winner takes all in this field.”
Many organisations agree with that sentiment. Morgan Stanley ranked AI and machine learning as the most disruptive trend, while consultancy firm PwC put AI’s potential global contribution to the global economy at $15.7tn by 2030.
Though globally the US and China remain the clear leaders in the AI sphere, against the backdrop of Brexit there is extra incentive for the UK to remain the AI leader in Europe and ensure investment remains in the capital.