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UK AI investment tops 1bn in 2018 as the number of start-ups grows

Investment in UK artificial intelligence companies has increased six-fold between 2014 and 2018, according to new figures from Tech Nation

Investment in UK AI start-ups totalled $1.3bn (£1bn) in 2018 – continuing the upward trend in tech investment.

The new figures from Tech Nation and Digital Economy Council mean that British companies raised more capital than France, Germany and the rest of Europe combined.

It marks the continued trend in UK AI investment, which has increased more than six-times from $200m (£153m) since 2014.

UK AI investment
Jeremy Wright QC, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “These statistics are further confirmation that the UK is Europe’s undisputed number one tech hub.

“Our success in artificial intelligence is thanks to a unique combination of talent, location, our business-friendly environment, unrivalled access to capital and world-leading universities.

“We are determined to make the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business, and through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are using the power of technology to change people’s lives for the better.”

 

The biggest UK AI investments of 2018

Graphcore was one of the biggest recipients of funding last year, raising $200m (£153m) from a consortium of investors.

The Bristol-based start-up is currently valued at $1.7bn (£1.32bn) and is looking at ways to improve the speed of AI processing and develop technologies for the next generation of AI enterprises and innovators.

The company has invented the Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), which can lower the cost of accelerating AI applications, while improving performance and efficiency anywhere between ten and 100-times over.

The health tech sector was another big area of growth, with Renalytix, which is looking into the use of AI to treat kidney disease, raising $29m (£22.2m) in 2018 and Medopad raising $26m (£19.9m).

The increase in investments in the UK AI sector means that the country can now claim to be home to five AI unicorns – start-ups valued over $1bn.

These are Darktrace, Benevolent AI, Improbable, Blue Prism and Graphcore.

 

How does UK AI investment compare to the rest of the world?

The research from Tech Nation indicates that investment in AI is growing at a faster rate than the wider tech industry, with 70% of global AI deals completed in the past decade made in the preceding three years.

Israel was the second largest receiver of AI investment in Europe, with its AI companies raising $800m (£612m) last year.

Tel Aviv tech hub
Tel Aviv has been dubbed the Start-Up City

Tel Aviv, the second largest city in the country, has a thriving tech hub that is looking to compete with Silicon Valley.

The US still dominates the global AI market, with almost 3,000 high-growth tech businesses based there.

US President Donald Trump’s recent signing of the American AI Initiative hopes to refocus attention and investment on the domestic tech sector.

Although $81.3bn (£62.2bn) has been invested in US AI, compared to China’s $14.8bn (£11.3bn), the Asian country is quickly gaining ground and plans to make AI tech in the region a $1tn (£776bn) industry by 2030.