Brexit could see UK influence over AI dramatically decline
Despite numerous assurances to the contrary, as the UK lumbers towards Article 50 there are still concerns about the negative impact on the technology sector, writes Telecoms.com, Banking Technology‘s sister publication.
One of those segments which could feel the sharp end of the stick is artificial intelligence (AI). Through the last couple of years, the UK has been one of the worldwide centres for AI, primarily because of the pioneering work of the now Google-owned Deepmind.
The Cambridge-based innovators are widely recognised as one of the most influential voices in the AI world, pushing up the overall reputation of the UK, though how long this will be the case remains to be seen.
“A lot of organisations are now looking elsewhere to base their innovation labs for AI,” says Chris Rosebert, head of data science & AI, at technology recruiter Networkers in an interview with Telecoms.com. “Brexit is starting to have a negative impact on the UK AI scene due to the uncertainty.
“Previously multi-national organisations may have thought the UK would have been a suitable country for such R&D centres, but due to the uncertainty in terms of work visas and funding from European bodies, there are places such as Berlin and Barcelona, which are looking like more attractive and stable options.”
AI is quickly becoming one of the more prominent topics in technology world due to the value which can be added into almost any organisation. Whether that would be productivity gains or value add features, intelligent automation is evolving into a must for any business and no longer a nice-to-have.
Many companies around the world are looking at digitally native organisations, the likes of Facebook or AirBnB or Google, and recognising the threat. These are businesses which are technology orientated and driven by automation. There is a genuine fear around the disruptions which could be caused.
The reaction has been to emulate these businesses, heavily investing in the new areas of data science and AI both in terms of the technology and people. The skills shortage across the world for qualified data scientists is staggering, and it’s only going to get worse.
“The number of jobs which are going to be available over the next couple of years will hugely outpace the number of candidates which are available,” says Rosebert. “The UK is no exception. This skills shortage isn’t going anywhere, but the innovation centres will not be present, and it may be more difficult to attract talent to the UK.
“We read the other day that there are 5600 people studying computer science in the UK currently, this is no-where near enough. Only a fraction of these individuals will progress all the way through to PhD level, which is the type of candidate companies need if they are to remain competitive in this relatively young field.”
Eventually, the barrier to entry will be reduced however. As school curriculums are adapted more towards the digital economy, there may not be a need for university education to do such jobs. But that scenario is in the distant future; right now AI is still in the embryonic stages where research and innovation is key.
The skills shortage on the whole makes the segment creates a talent led situation. Employers have to pay above the odds, create offices where there are talent pools and recognise they don’t have the upper hand in the exchange. This will be an unusual situation for a number of companies, however it could also result in the UK’s influence declining considerably as this promising sector begins to bear fruit.
“San Francisco is the leader in the AI world at the moment, but the UK has a very strong voice,” says Rosebert. “The majority of people who are entering the AI world now are not British however, and so why would organisations look to develop innovation labs within the UK when the talent resides in the European Union?”