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Global tech industry backs UK with $1.4 billion artificial intelligence deal

Global tech industry backs UK with $1.4 billion artificial intelligence deal

A group of international tech firms and venture capitalists injected almost £1 billion ($1.4 billion) into the U.K.’s artificial intelligence (AI) industry on Thursday.

The deal was backed by Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain, Canadian venture capital firm Chrysalix, U.K. automaker Rolls-Royce, the British government and other investors.

The investment will be used to fund new specialist AI qualifications and computer science teachers, to tackle a skills shortage in the sector. Theresa May’s government has been driving an industrial strategy to tap into the growing industry, which Gartner estimates will be worth more than $3.9 trillion in business value by 2022.

“Artificial intelligence provides limitless opportunities to develop new, efficient and accessible products and services which transform the way we live and work,” Greg Clark, U.K. business and energy secretary, said in a statement.

“Today’s new deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce to establish the U.K. as a driving force in the development and commercial use of artificial intelligence technologies.”

Britain’s nascent AI sector has seen increasing interest from overseas investors. Last week, London-based BenevolentAI raised $115 million from new investors in the U.S. and existing investors, including the U.K.’s Woodford Investment Management.

But critics have warned that the rapid development of AI could come with consequences. On Wednesday, U.S. policy think tank the Rand Corporation warned that the use of AI in a military scenario could potentially lead to a nuclear war by 2040. But the organization also said that AI could have a positive impact and improve decision-making to avert potential disasters.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been a notable opponent of the potential misuse of AI, and has said it could be the cause of a third world war and create an “immortal dictator.”

The British government said that the money raised also would be used to create a data ethics center to ensure the ethical development of AI.

“As with all innovation, there is also the potential for misuse which puts the whole sector under scrutiny and undermines public confidence,” Clark said.

The U.K. is not the only country to have noticed the importance of the sector. China is ploughing billions into its own AI industry and wants it to be worth 1 trillion yuan ($158 billion) by 2030, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that whichever nation leads the technology “will become the ruler of the world.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said Wednesday that it will need to invest 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in AI research by 2020.

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