A government study released in the United Kingdom projects AI technology could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the economy.

Artificial intelligence could add 630 billion pounds (US$837 billion) to the U.K. economy by 2035, a government-commissioned report said.

The economic boost would come from a combination of more personalized services, improvements in health care and adopting machine learning to find ways to use resources more efficiently, according to the report. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a term used to describe software that learns from the data it compiles to improve on its own such functions as recommending product maintenance or sources of new products.

We have a choice. The U.K. could stay among the world leaders in AI in the future, or allow other countries to dominate.
Wendy Hall, professor of computer science
University of Southampton

But to see that gain, the U.K. needs to do more to encourage businesses to deploy machine learning and artificial intelligence and ensure the U.K. maintains a leadership position in AI research and development.

“We have a choice,” the report’s authors, Wendy Hall, a professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, and Jerome Pesenti, CEO of health care research startup BenevolentAI, wrote in Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK. “The U.K. could stay among the world leaders in AI in the future, or allow other countries to dominate.”

The review is part of a series of recommendations Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has solicited from business and academic leaders on how to shape British industrial strategy. The policy of using government power to promote certain key industries and technologies, which May announced in January, represents a marked shift from the more laissez-faire policies of both Conservative and Labour governments in recent decades.

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Besides artificial intelligence, May’s government has also talked about promoting robotics, 5G wireless internet, and so-called “smart energy” technologies.

The report called for industry to sponsor 300 new master’s degree students in AI each year and for the government and universities to create 200 additional doctoral students specializing in the subject. It also recommended conversion courses to help more people acquire skills in machine learning and called for a government effort to help businesses understand how they can use AI to increase productivity and improve their products and services.

Pesenti said in an interview that he and Hall had already secured verbal commitments from a number of businesses to fund the additional master’s students. “The U.K. today has good skills but it is not at the scale that is necessary,” he said.

The government should make more of its own data and data from publicly-funded research available to corporations and academics, the report said. “The big thing to drive the adoption of AI in industry is to allow broader access to data,” Pesenti said.

The report advocated legal changes to create an explicit “right to mine” data in any publicly-funded research. Currently, there is a public “right to read” most of this research, but whether others could exploit the data contained in such research has been a legal gray area.

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Hall and Pesenti called for the creation of joint government-industry “Data Trusts” that would create model contracts for sharing government data with industry and could eventually serve as data repositories businesses could access.

The House of Lords currently has a select committee examining artificial intelligence, with the possibility that they will recommend legislation at the end of their inquiry.

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