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'Booming' artificial intelligence and robotics sector in line for £17m boost
Source: (EPSRC

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics which can "transform how we live, work, travel and learn" are in line for a boost in the Government's digital strategy.

Universities will get £17 million to help them develop pioneering robotics and AI as part of the plans to support the "booming" sector, which is behind smartphone voice and touch recognition technology and digital assistants such as the iPhone's Siri.

AI also forms the bedrock of video games and music and film recommendations services , as well as improving online customer services, and is used in fraud detection tools used by banks.

Among the projects supported with the money from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is a move by the University of Manchester to develop autonomous robots for hazardous environments such as nuclear facilities.

Researchers at Imperial College London will use some of the funds to try and make advances in the field of surgical micro-robotics.

A major review of AI will also be carried out by Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and BenevolentTech chief executive Jerome Pesenti.

The move to include AI in the digital strategy, to be launched on Wednesday, comes after the consultancy Accenture estimated the sector could add in the region of £654 billion to the UK economy by 2035.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: "Britain has a proud history of digital innovation - from the earliest days of computing to Sir Tim Berners-Lee's development of the World Wide Web.

"We are already pioneers in today's artificial intelligence revolution and the digital strategy will build on our strengths to make sure UK-based scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs continue to be at the forefront.

"Technologies like AI have the potential to transform how we live, work, travel and learn, and I am pleased that Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Jerome Pesenti will be leading this review.

"It's great that Government and industry will be working together to drive growth in the sector, to realise all the economic and social benefits for the UK.

"Backing our thriving digital economy to expand and grow by putting the best foundations in place to develop new technology is a vital part of this Government's plan to build a modern, dynamic and global trading nation."

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "Investment in robotics and artificial intelligence will help make our economy more competitive, build on our world-leading reputation in these cutting-edge sectors and help us create new products, develop more innovative services and establish better ways of doing business.

"Innovation is at the heart of our industrial strategy and the launch of the Government's digital strategy underlines our commitment to this vital sector.

"By supporting British businesses and investing in dynamic fields such as robotics and AI, we will help put the UK at the forefront of global innovation."

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