AI investment critical to UK’s future on world stage

UK manufacturing firms will need to see their public and private investment in artificial intelligence increase, in order to remain competitive against rising economies focusing on the technology and to escape the cold shadow cast by the US and China.

CROP - Businessman on blurred background using digital artificial intelligence icon hologram 3D rendering - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Economies “no longer defined by gross domestic product (GDP) or geography…[but] according to their capacity to take part in a global system shaped by artificial intelligence” – image courtesy of Depositphotos
The UK’s footing on the world stage with regards to AI development could become less certain without intensified funding streams and related research, as “rising” global economies with AI-focused programmes vie for position.

Although China and the US will likely be the key power players in AI-driven economies of the future, ascendant countries such as Singapore, Israel, Ireland and Finland pose significant competition for British firms, who are among other “traditional champions” of the technology like their Canadian, French and German counterparts.

The data, which assessed the research performance, start-up funding and supercomputing prowess of 54 countries, is derived from the Global AI Index.

It suggests a coming and radical power shift from economies that are “no longer defined by gross domestic product (GDP) or geography…[but] according to their capacity to take part in a global system shaped by artificial intelligence.”

The report looks at the impact of private investment in artificial intelligence, while also considering the critical role public, or state, finance can have on a country’s global ranking.

While the UK was ranked third in the Global AI Index for private investment in AI companies in 2019, the US, and China especially, rocketed ahead.


Global AI Index

Private investment in AI companies 


China saw more than $65m of private investment last year, while the US saw just above $14m, and the UK a little over $5m.

China has also already allocated future state investments in AI one-and-a-half times greater than every other country in the world combined, according to the Global AI Index.

This ramping up in AI investment has seen China leap from a pool of other thriving Asia-Pacific economies measured by their GDP, to become a serious and leading threat in the field of AI to the US.

The UK has also seen its footing in the world economy become more ascendant, owing to its AI-focused research. The UK has published around 18,200 academic papers on the subject to date, ahead of Canada, France, Germany and even China.

But it is facing increasing competition from “fast-moving and high-intensity” economies that include Singapore, Israel, Ireland and Finland, who are outperforming the UK on funding, AI-related research groups and research quality.


Global AI index sites visited

People accessing online AI education courses, measured by number of sites visited


Other middle-income economies such as the UAE and India also pose a threat to the UK in future AI capabilities.

The UAE is the only country in the world to have both drafted a national strategy and appointed an AI minister.

While India has a higher proportion of its population than the US accessing online AI education courses and its aspiring coders were shown to be asking almost as many questions as the Americans on Stack Overflow, a question-and-answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

“What is clear from the rankings is that a reshuffling of the world order is on the way. This is a future no longer defined by GDP or geography. Instead, countries can be seen in clusters, according to their capacity to take part in a global system shaped by artificial intelligence” – Tortoise Intelligence.

*Charts courtesy of Global AI Index