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Cisco Investment

Cisco boosted the Government’s AI sector deal by investing a whopping £76.8 million into digital research, with a heavy lean on AI, as reported here by tech reporter Emily Nicholle for City AM. Part of the investment includes the foundation of a new AI research centre in conjunction with UCL.

In an interesting choice of messaging, the Prime Minister described the investment as a “vote of confidence in the Government’s Industrial Strategy”, a phrase which for many conjures the beleaguered football manager on borrowed time (so often is it preceded by the “dreaded” vote of confidence in that context).

Yet surely it does represent a demonstration of faith in AI in the UK. Many will take heart in the U.S. tech juggernaut backing the research capabilities of talent at UK universities.

The Cisco announcement also checks a big box on the Government’s checklist for its Industrial Strategy in terms of seeking to spread the benefits of digital innovation, with an initiative to end digital exclusion.

From a communications point of view, it’s interesting to see the investment Cisco makes in its Country Digital Acceleration platform. It creates a clear, replicable programme for engaging governments, academics and industry in different countries and positions the company as transparent and committed to the markets in which they operate.

Killing Killer Robots

A cadre of influential figures in the AI world, including Government AI tsar and DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis, joined Boston’s the Future of Life Institute in signing a pledge not to develop lethal autonomous weapons. Covered nicely here by James Vincent of the Verge. Covered with more of a spin here by the Daily Express, leaning in on the current controversy around Elon Musk to somehow give this a negative spin for the tech billionaire. The picture of his mugshot next to that of the Terminator certainly helps in that endeavour.

PwC Report

The big news earlier in the week came from PwC’s report looking at the impact of AI on employment in the UK. The Big 4 firm found that AI and robotics will be a net job creator, removing 7 million jobs from the economy, but adding 7.2 million. While this may be razor slim margins, it proves a salve against the worst prognostications of the doom merchants! Julia Kollewe had a good report on this data in the Guardian.

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

Jeremy Wright gets off to a flyer at DCMS with major Cisco announcement

Jeremy Wright will have been pleased to change the conversation away from the questions relating to digital prowess that followed his appointment to the DCMS hot seat. The Cisco announcement represents a major win for the Government in terms of inward investment and brings to life many of the talking points that have been heard in relation to the AI sector deal. The Minister described the UK as “the natural destination in Europe for tech companies to invest”. Remarks presumably received coolly within the Élysée Palace.

Chancellor underlines importance of AI to UK economy at 4IR APPG

Alan Mak’s All Party Parliamentary Group looking at the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) celebrated a year of discussions with a reception at Parliament. Guest of honour was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he underlined the importance of AI to the UK economy. He addressed the group and explained his firm belief that the key metric for Government was whether real wages were rising and that AI, and tech more generally, offered the productivity boosts necessary to deliver against that goal.

Perhaps the most telling commentary came from event sponsor HSBC’s European subsidiary chairman John Symonds, who observed that much education to meet the changes wrought by the 4IR are actually preparing us for the past. Some coding, he said, was likely to be an antiquated skill thanks to AI automating many routine tasks in this arena.

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