Game changer: Microsoft announces major AI programmes for the UK  

Game changer: Microsoft announces major AI programmes for the UK  

Does AI seem like a futuristic pipe dream? Something that your business could never implement? Well, Microsoft has just announced several investments and programs designed to help UK organisations seize the opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence.

In her opening address at Future Decoded, Microsoft’s annual marquee customer and partner event in the UK, Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK talked about the opportunity and responsibility of AI. According to Rose, “I believe the AI revolution will be far more game-changing than any other technology led advance we have seen. But ensuring success for tomorrow requires we take action today.” 

These actions include:

A multi-million Pound investment to address the UK’s AI brain drain

Microsoft Research Cambridge, the company’s world-class research lab, is partnering with the University of Cambridge to boost the number of AI researchers in the UK. The initiative seeks to address the current UK brain drain by providing support for Ph.D. students at the University.

The goal here is to realise AI’s potential in enhancing the human experience and to nurture the next generation of researchers and talent in the field without seeing UK academia losing its best and brightest.

This initiative not only builds on a decades-long relationship between the University and Microsoft Research, but also represents a shared belief that such partnerships will help ensure a pipeline of future researchers are equipped to utilise AI to solve the complex challenges facing the UK. 

In reaction to the news,secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright said, "The UK is a beacon for international talent and at the forefront of emerging technologies because of the ideas developed in our world-leading universities.”

“This new collaboration between Microsoft and Cambridge University will help us continue to develop homegrown AI talent and supports the government's modern Industrial Strategy and £1 billion AI sector deal. It is crucial that we do all we can to capitalise on our global advantage in this technology."

Doubling down of digital skills investment

Building on the company’s existing digital skills programme in the UK, Microsoft announced the ‘Microsoft AI Academy’, which will help Microsoft’s UK customers and partners develop practical AI skills, learning and certification. The ‘Microsoft AI Academy’ will run face-to-face and online training sessions for business leaders, IT professionals, developers and start-ups. More details on the Academy will be shared in the coming weeks and it will be officially launched in January 2019.  

Supporting UK start-ups with great ideas on how AI can solve societal challenges 

Building on Microsoft’s global ‘AI for Good’ initiative, Microsoft for Start-ups, a programme that supports start-ups at all phases of their growth through an in-depth 1:1 bespoke programme, will be launching a special cohort specifically focused on UK organisations working on AI solutions that have a direct societal impact.

Running from February to June 2019, eligible UK start-ups will participate in the immersive programme at the Microsoft Reactor space in the City of London, followed by ongoing support from a dedicated team of success managers. Organisations that are developing AI solutions that could help society develop more sustainably or could improve the lives of those living with a life-changing condition, can apply to join the programme at https://aka.ms/cohortearth and https://aka.ms/cohortaccessibility

Providing baseline research and practical advice for UK organisations struggling with AI adoption

Also unveiled at Future Decoded, Microsoft launched a new landmark research report which provides a powerful lens on how successful UK organisations are integrating AI into their operations. This research, in conjunction with Goldsmiths, University of London, combines both a comprehensive set of interviews with industry experts across business, academia and government, along with an extensive barometer survey of over 1,000 business leaders and 4,000 employees. 

At the advent of the AI revolution, the report provides a clear picture of where UK organisations are on their AI journeys and the impact that both business leaders and employees think AI will have.  A key takeaway is the UK’s opportunity to lead the way in the development and use of AI, but only if organisations act now.

It also urges business leaders to take a principled approach by establishing underlying values, ethics and commitments, noting that those organisations that have already adopted an ethical approach to the use of AI are outperforming those that aren’t by 9%.