McKinsey and Quantum Black back government's £2.3 billion AI boost

26 June 2018 4 min. read

A new multi-billion AI investment drive has been backed by key industry figures, including consulting firm McKinsey & Company and its analytics subsidiary Quantum Black. As well as a new hub for data ethics, a variety of private companies have pledged to invest in their own capacities in the UK, promising a major jobs boost ahead of Brexit.

The British government has promised an injection of £2.3 billion (€2.61 billion) in private investment to boost AI talent, including the creation of over 1,600 jobs, and a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. According to the government, the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation's purpose is for advising rules changes that may be needed for the rapidly changing sector, as well as to set non-legislatory standards, including facing up to key ethical questions to ensure algorithmic AI architecture is crafted in an ethical manner.

The announcement came on the back of a round table between the UK government and a host of cutting-edge companies, as part of London Tech Week. The event to showcase Britain as the best place in the world to run a tech company kicked off a series of events geared toward driving inward investment in key sectors, ahead of an uncertain economic future for the UK post-Brexit.

McKinsey and Quantum Black back government's £2.3 billion AI boost

The high profile meeting yielded a number of marquee investment pledges. ERP giant Salesforce is investing of $2.5 billion in the UK over the next five years, which will include the opening of a second UK data centre in 2019, while Mubadala is launching a £300 million European investment fund based in the UK. NTT Data is also investing £41million in the opening of a new office and Innovation Centre, a move which will create up to 200 jobs over the next three years.

Other major businesses are among those backing the plan to develop a new crop of AI experts in the UK, including Ocado, Amazon, Rolls Royce, consulting giant McKinsey & Company and its subsidiary Quantum Black. Quantum Black is an advanced analytics firm which helps companies use data to make distinctive, sustainable and significant improvements to their performance, services which the government is hoping will become key pillars of a successful UK economy after the culmination of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Speaking on the news, the UK's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matthew Hancock told the press, "We're the leading tech-hub in Europe and we're determined to stay that way.” Hancock added that the UK is keen to stay ahead of its competitors when it comes to innovation, stating, “I love the French, and I admire what Emmanuel Macron is doing. I admire the fact that they're the third biggest digital economy in Europe. But the truth of the matter is that investment in the UK is bigger than France, Germany and Sweden combined."

New plans

The plan comes as the UK government confirms a new Start-Up Visa for entrepreneurs to launch in spring 2019. And according to Secretary Hancock, the visas will be judged by accelerators and entrepreneurs to make sure "that people with the best ideas can start and grow their digital businesses" in the UK.

The news follows the UK Government’s autumn budget in 2017, which set aside £75 million for the development of AI – as well as funding of 200 new PhD positions in the field. The budget also saw a further £76 million pledged to boost skills in the digital and construction industries. The developments followed recent criticism that most UK secondary schools did not offer a Computer Sciences GCSE.

Embattled Chancellor Philip Hammond’s spending plan centred on making Britain a technology hub following Brexit, in order to avoid economic shrinkage following the lengthy separation from Brussels. While Hammond suggested the nation already was a “world leader” in cutting edge technology, a report released at the time from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the UK was in decline in both terms of top-cited scientific research, and AI inventions.

Related: Brexit department picks McKinsey for £1.9 million consulting contract.