In her first speech at the CBI Annual Conference earlier this week, Theresa May announced a major increase to research funding in order to make Britain a ‘go-to’ place for investors and innovators alike. It was recognised as a modern and ambitious strategy focused on industry, where May described the first of many steps the country would take to address what she described as ‘structural’ challenges she feels are currently holding British businesses back.
What really made the news was May’s commitment to increase government investment to the tune of £2bn further per year by 2020 for R&D so that Britain can remain competitive on the global scale when it comes to scientific and technological discovery. This increase in funds is to be channelled towards what the government has noted as ‘priority technologies:’ including robotics and biotechnology.
For enate, it’s great news that the government is putting money into robotics and AI – it only goes to show the widespread and ongoing need for technology that integrates robotics and AI into real services that real people love.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly to the Moon?
However, in May’s speech we see the difference between visionary leadership and old fashioned government expenditure. JKF said we ‘we will go to the moon,” whereas Theresa May issaying “we will spend money.”
There is an opportunity for real visionary government here, a government that actually makes markets for this new technology by aiming at the moon and investing scientifically in competing groups to get there.
Here are some examples of goals we could set for this £2bn yearly fund if we were to apply visionary, forward services-based thinking around the investment:
- We could deploy automation and AI to make up for 50% of healthcare staff shortages within the next five years.
- We could deploy AI in the NHS to reduce death from cancer in the under 75s by 75% by 2030.
- By 2020 every child in the UK could have a personal AI tutor that understand where they are, how they learn and what they need to know.
- By 2030 every elderly person that wants one could have a personal bot that can monitor their health, deal with emergencies and help around the house.
- We could deploy AI to entirely eradicate child abuse in the UK by 2030.
Right now we don’t know that these can be achieved, but we know that the technology probably about has the capability to deliver them.
While the £2bn increase to science and technology innovation is likely to be appreciated by both the business and scientific communities, surely government should be aiming higher and focusing on the bigger picture and humanitarian causes versus the UK’s place amid the commercial technology landscape.
In addition, while May’s speech was great sentiment on investment, but we need a radical overhaul of education and immigration to achieve it. Ironically, the key resource needed to make AI and Robotics really successful is people, and currently we don’t have enough people with the right skills to deliver.