Government launches £100m artificial intelligence funding and support programme for businesses

Government launches £100m artificial intelligence funding and support programme for businesses
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Thu 27th Apr 2023

Innovate UK has launched a new programme to support growth in UK businesses' use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

The £100m BridgeAI initiative focuses on agriculture, creative industries, construction and transport. These are sectors which the government considers as with high potential to benefit from AI.

The programme delivers funding and support to help innovators assess and implement AI solutions and connect with experts.

It is includes finance from the Technology Mission Fund, which was unveiled on 6 March as part of the government's strategy for science and technology.

Will Drury, executive director, digital and technology at Innovate UK said:

“The BridgeAI programme marks a significant investment in UK business. We aim to unlock the untapped potential of AI and drive greater productivity and efficiency across key sectors.

"By nurturing AI innovation at the grass roots level, we're confident that this programme will enable thousands of businesses to add even greater value to the UK economy and compete more effectively on the global stage."

Watch the launch event for BridgeAI:

Grant funding for small businesses conducting feasibility studies for artificial intelligence solutions

The announcement of BridgeAI follows the launch of a £5m grant programme for feasibility studies by micro, small and medium buisnesses that develop AI and machine learning solutions that address a business challenge or opportunity in these sectors:

  • construction

  • transport, including logistics and warehousing

  • creative industries (excluding marketing and advertising)

  • agriculture and food processing

Grants of between £25,000 and £50,000 are available.

You can find more information here and watch an online briefing here.

Government's approach to artificial intelligence

The government has made several announcements around AI, which it says employs over 50,000 people in the UK and contributed £3.7bn to the economy last year.

In March it released a whitepaper "to guide the use of artificial intelligence in the UK, to drive responsible innovation and maintain public trust in this revolutionary technology".

Critics of the AI technologies, that underpin services such as the popular ChatGPT service, say there are risks around human rights, privacy and safety.

The Italian government has banned ChatGPT, GCHQ boss Sir Jeremy Fleming warned UK ministers about the risks posed by AI and the Trades Union Congress said AI could lead to discrimination in the workplace.

In the whitepaper, the government said:

"Organisations can be held back from using AI to its full potential because a patchwork of legal regimes causes confusion and financial and administrative burdens for businesses trying to comply with rules".

"The government will avoid heavy-handed legislation which could stifle innovation and take an adaptable approach to regulating AI.

"Instead of giving responsibility for AI governance to a new single regulator, the government will empower existing regulators - such as the Health and Safety Executive, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Competition and Markets Authority - to come up with tailored, context-specific approaches that suit the way AI is actually being used in their sectors."

At the government's Business Connect event attended by over 200 business leaders on 24 April, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced £100m for a taskforce "to help the UK build and adopt next generation of safe AI".

Speaking to journalists, he said:

"I don't think governments can wish this away and pretend it's not happening.

"It's right that we engage with it properly because we need to get the balance right between support and innovation, protecting ourselves against the risk, and the government needs to be active for that.

"But we have the opportunity to be, I think, a world leader."

Relevant resources

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance journalist and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's news reporter and Bristol Local Leader. I have 20 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from famous names like Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation as the website's news reporter and as the host of the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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