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Budget 2017: A boost for artificial intelligence and the tech industry but is it enough to make the UK a world leader?

PUBLISHED: 18:02 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:02 22 November 2017

Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are being placed at the heart of Philip Hammond's productivity drive. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are being placed at the heart of Philip Hammond's productivity drive. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

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Artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and other emerging technologies will form the backbone of a drive for improved productivity.

TechEastchief operations officer Tim Robinson. Picture: TechEast. TechEastchief operations officer Tim Robinson. Picture: TechEast.

The chancellor announced the creation of a national advisory body to help pave the way for the wider adoption innovative technology such as driverless vehicles.

A total of £500m investment will be used to increase the development of AI technology, as well as 5G and full fibre broadband connectivity.

The chancellor also announced a further £7bn expansion of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) and promised to unlock £20bn of patient capital over the next 10 years to invest in high-growth firms through tax reliefs.

Norwich has a burgeoning technology sector with firms such as EDP Business Award winner Rainbird Technologies, chatbot builder Ubisend and business analytics start-up SenLab Group leading the way in AI, while companies at Hethel Engineering Centre are working on autonomous vehicle software.

Rainbird chairman James Duez. Picture: Rainbird Rainbird chairman James Duez. Picture: Rainbird

TechEast chief operations officer Tim Robinson said the focus on these technologies and life sciences in the Budget placed Norfolk and Suffolk in a good position to secure part of the funding. He also welcomed tax breaks for investors gambling on new technologies. He said: “Doubling the enterprise investment scheme (EIS) allowance will provide additional incentives for angel investors and should mean there is more money available for high growth businesses.”

The new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation would be created to work with government, regulators and industry to “lay the foundations for AI adoption” in a world first, the government said. The chancellor said £75m would be used to fund implementing “key recommendations” of the centre, as well PhD researchers.

However, Rainbird executive chairman James Duez said the investment was a drop in the ocean compared to what was being put in by competitive enterprise both in the UK and overseas.

He said: “The real progress will not just be made in the cutting edge research but in ensuring that our regulatory frameworks are supportive of cognitive technologies so that the great British public can get public services in a safe, efficient and regulated manner.

“The opportunity for AI is not driverless cars, it is the efficiency that automating complex decision-making can bring to the economy at large.”

Research and development (R&D) will also see additional spending with an increase in tax credits to 12% of expenditure.

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