Government announces £1bn+ AI Sector Deal

What will be the impact of the UK's AI Sector Deal on jobs?
Robots in operation at a bread factory in Germany, 2005. (KUKA Roboter GmbH/Wikimedia Commons)

The government announced in late April 2018 details of its new AI Sector Deal, which includes £300m of newly allocated funding to the AI sector. For its part, the private sector tech industry has promised nearly £1bn in investment as part of the deal. The deal includes government funding for 1,000 new PhDs in AI.

The Sector Deal was first announced as a plan within the government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy and is linked to its AI Grand Challenge. Companies and organisations named in the announcement, who are contributing to the deal, include Global Brain, Chrysalix, the University of Cambridge, the Alan Turing Institute and Rolls-Royce.

Of the deal, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said,

Artificial Intelligence is at the centre of our plans to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business. We have a great track record and are home to some of the world’s biggest names in AI like Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon, but there is so much more we can do.

The government predicts that this deal will help the UK claim a £232bn portion of the AI economy by 2030, which would then amount to 10 percent of the UK’s GDP. However, the announcement makes no mention of the impact of AI development on jobs within the UK. While jobs will certainly be created within the highly skilled AI sector through this deal, the impact outside of the sector, for example, within manufacturing, remains to be seen.

In a February 2018 report on the impact of automation on jobs, Price Waterhouse Coopers predicted that the percentage of existing jobs at risk through automation at the global level will steadily increase from today through the mid-2030s. Their analysis shows that, in the UK, about 2 percent of all jobs could be at risk by the early 202os, with women experiencing far greater risk than men. By the late 2020s, the proportion of jobs at risk of automation jumps to 20 percent, with women still slightly more at risk, and the risk far greater for those with low to medium education than for those with high levels. By the mid-2030s, a full 30 percent of existing jobs could be at risk and those with the lowest (GCSE level or lower) and medium education levels will experience far greater risk of losing their jobs to automation (47 percent and 35 percent, respectively) than will those with high education, for whom 12 percent of jobs could be at risk.

Of course, other analyses have found that there can be positive knock-on effects wherein jobs are created in other sectors or industries due to the growth of AI. But it seems that the UK government is going to need to carefully and critically address the potential impacts, both positive and negative, of investing in the AI Sector at this scale.

Further details of the sector deal are available at the link.

Source: Tech sector backs British AI industry with multi million pound investment – GOV.UK