A new report by AI research and thought leadership organisation CognitionX backs Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s ambitions to make London a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and investment.
In March, we reported that the Mayor had commissioned CognitionX to map AI innovation across London and identify the capital’s strengths as a global AI hub.
Now Khan has announced the report’s findings, claiming they prove “that London is the AI capital of Europe, and that our supportive and welcoming tech ecosystem is the best place to build and scale an AI company.”
He added, “Alongside our welcoming tech ecosystem, we have a strong pipeline of AI innovation and an academic and investment base geared for the long term.”
The report was published to coincide with CognitionX’s CogX 2018 conference in London, which brought together a range of AI experts from business and academia. Internet of Business is publishing a range of exclusive reports from the event over the next few days.
What attracts AI companies to London?
The report points out that London is home to one of the world’s AI giants, DeepMind (which recently teamed up with a local hospital to help diagnose eye disease), while most of the 750-plus vendors mentioned in the document are SMEs. This, Sadiq Khan claims, shows that London provides companies of all sizes with the right mix of ingredients for success – and is providing a nurturing environment for startups.
The research found that, with 758 companies, 645 of which have a London headquarters, London has an AI supplier base that is double the size of Paris and Berlin combined.
The report embraces a broad definition of ‘AI company’, including firms that had sold at least one AI product, carried out AI research, or whose product is on the borderline of AI.
London’s global prominence in finance, insurance, and law – industries that are both leading and being influenced by AI innovation – make it attractive to companies in the field. As do its universities and their partnership with research bodies such as the Alan Turing Institute.
The rate of new AI supplier formation in London is reported to be 42 percent per annum, significantly faster than the global rate of 24 percent.
The Mayor was emphatic about the implications for wider technology innovation in the city:
These strengths will also support my ambition to make London a world-leading smart city, in which public data and AI will open doors for the public and private sectors to work together to improve the way that Londoners experience our city on a daily basis.
Khan didn’t ignore the elephant in the room, however: Brexit. “Unavoidably, the context of the UK’s relationship with the EU looms large,” he said. “As Mayor, I will continue to fight for the best deal that not only protects London’s tech sector, but which can ensure it continues to grow.”
While the UK may be casting itself adrift from the rest of Europe, the report highlights London’s diversity as being integral to its ability to attract AI talent and investment from around the world. Forty-three percent of London’s AI companies have a non-UK national as a founder, it says.
CognitionX estimates that the global market for AI applications is worth $3.4 billion in 2018 – encompassing over 12,000 suppliers – and is forecast to grow to $50 billion by 2025.
Plus: May’s Tech Investment Roundtable
In related news, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is today hosting a Tech Investment Roundtable with IT industry leaders, exploring how to keep the UK in the vanguard of technology companies’ inward investment, post Brexit.
Internet of Business says
In the face of Brexit, Sadiq Khan is eager to present London as fertile ground for AI investment and innovation, especially after the UK was sidelined from Europe’s €20 billion AI strategy. The UK’s own £1 billion ($1.3 billion) Sector Deal for AI was largely funded by private investment, with comparatively little – if any – new money from the government, as our recent report explained.
Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced investment in AI cancer diagnosis, while the Tech for Good Summit, organised by French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris, sought to promote AI incubation across the channel. Politicians throughout Europe, and beyond, are competing to ride the AI investment wave.
The Mayor of London commissioned the CognitionX report on the back of his stated ambition to make London the capital of AI, and so its positive findings inevitably have good PR value.
Nevertheless, the view that London is emerging as a global leader in AI is persuasive. The House of Lords Select Committee on AI recently argued that the UK is “in a strong position to be among the world leaders in artificial intelligence” – a fact that, if handled carefully, “could be a great opportunity for the British economy”.
Andrew de Rozairo, VP of Customer Innovation and Enterprise Platform, SAP, agreed in his evidence to the Select Committee: “If we adopt AI, given the strong skill sets that we have in the UK, we have a huge opportunity to boost productivity.”
Sadiq Khan’s efforts in the capital are an open call to AI investors, tech talent, and startups: London welcomes you.