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Spring Budget’s AI policies not going far enough claim AI businesses

Artificial intelligence (AI) related businesses claim the Spring Budget’s policies on the topic are a step in the right direction but aren’t sure they go far enough.

Last month’s Spring Budget contained a raft of policies to promote the development of AI in the UK, which the Chancellor sees as vital for growing the British economy.

AI, the field of study dedicated to developing human or above-human levels of intelligence, has seen an explosion of public interest and investment in recent months, with the release of new products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Karim Beguir, CEO of the AI product company InstaDeep, said: “I think we’re in an unprecedented, exciting time in the sense that things that were science fiction in the past are becoming reality.”

The technology is seen as one of the key new drivers of growth for national economies, with a recent report from Goldman Sachs predicting that it could boost productivity and increase global GDP by up to 7%.

New policies to create this growth include an AI regulatory sandbox, allowing companies to get their products to consumers faster, and funding for the powerful new computers required to train AI models.

The government also established “The Manchester Prize”, a £1m annual prize to the individual or group conducting the most ground-breaking British AI research.

Anna Thomas, Director of the Institute for the Future of Work, a research and development institute focused on technology, said: “The £28 billion increase in investment allowances will help start ups and contribute towards addressing the UK’s chronic underspend, but the government has missed an opportunity to bring a balanced approach by also incentivising investment in human capabilities.”

Alexandra Mousavizadeh, CEO of Evident, a London-based start-up measuring AI maturity and adoption in business said: “The UK is sort of standing still where other nations are doubling down.

“In the UK it is quite difficult to get AI talent and a lot of the AI talent is leaving the country, so you’re sort of squeezed on both ends”

A recent white paper on AI from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) recognised the priority of attracting global talent to remain a leader in AI, highlighting the new AI talent network and additional funding for AI PhDs.

Beguir believes that talent will always an issue but that the UK had good ecosystem for start-ups in the earlier stages, whilst more funding and other improvements are still needed to support companies later on in their lifecycle.

Beguir said: “I think in general these are steps in the right direction.

“There is a recognition that AI is critical technology of our time, and that further investments and further development of the AI ecosystem in the UK is a must and will definitely yield many benefits.”

Others have concerns over these developments and their trade-offs.

A group of over 27,000 scientists, start-up founders and corporate leaders have signed an open letter calling for a six-month moratorium on training powerful AI systems due to their risks to humanity.

Mousavizadeh thought the letter raised good questions but cautioned against falling entirely to these fears.

On the 24th of April, the government announced £100 million in funding to create a task force to ensure that the UK develops safe and reliable foundation models, like those targeted in the open letter.

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