The UK government wants the country to become the leader of artificial intelligence (AI) which could add $837bn to its economy.

An independent review was published yesterday from experts and academics in the UK technology industry suggesting proposals for the government to work with startups and companies in the sector to stay ahead of the competition.

According to research by venture capital firm Asgard, the UK has the strongest AI ecosystem in the whole of Europe and London is the number one hub for startups in the space.

There are 121 AI startups in the UK, including the likes of DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2016 for $500m, and autonomous vehicle startup Oxbotica.

Germany is trailing behind with 51 startups. France and Spain take third and fourth place with 39 and 31 companies respectively.

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The report was led by two major figures in UK tech: Dame Wendy Hall, regius professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, and Jerome Pesenti, the chief executive of BenevolentTech, the tech division of AI startup BenevolentAI.

Hall is one of the most influential people in technology in the UK. She was the first person outside of North America to be elected president of the Association of Computing Machinery in 2008. At the moment, she is managing director of Web Science Trust, a charitable body which supports the global development of web science around the world.

It makes sense that Pesenti was also consulting on the report. According to Asgard, Benevolent AI is the best funded European AI startup. Since its inception in 2013, it has raised over $1bn in funding for its work on using AI to empower drug development.

The report made 18 recommendation of how the UK can become the best place for businesses developing AI technologies to grow and thrive.

These included:

  • Increases the UK’s AI expertise, through initiatives such as funding for Masters programmes
  • Creating an AI council to act as an oversight group for companies and universities using AI
  • Helping organisations and workers understand how AI can boost their productivity
  • Ensuring that organisations can be confident that the use of data for AI is safe and secure
  • Build on the UK’s record for AI research

The report also suggests making the Alan Turing Institute a national institute for AI. Turing, who developed the first computer during his work trying to break German codes in World War Two, was the first person to question if machines could think back in 1950. He was reportedly inspired by the work of computer theorist, Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer programme in the 1840s.

Wendy Hall said in a statement:

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“AI has been around for a very long time as a concept and this latest surge of technological development is likely to see automation continue to escalate and accelerate in every walk of life. Now is the time for us all – scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and the government – to come together and address the issues about how AI is going to impact society and seek ways to ensure that were able to deliver the great breakthroughs the technology has the potential to deliver.”

AI is having an impact across all sectors, from banking to insurance and security.