Letter: To stop AI brain drain, try funding research councils

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John Thornhill’s recent article looking at a potential artificial intelligence power imbalance between the public and private sectors (Opinion, April 1) certainly doesn’t understate the risks of a brain drain from AI research into industry.

Translation of deep tech research into successful industrial applications has always been a challenge in the UK — and having some of the top AI experts embedded in industry is really vital for making sure AI can fully benefit the industrial base.

However, the public sector must step up and help mitigate any risks associated with this growing power imbalance, not just between academia and industry, but between tech vendors and the rest of UK industry.

So first we need to ensure that a fair share of public funding is remaining with research councils and Innovate UK, the quango which provides money and support to organisations to make new products and services. These bodies may not have the deep pockets or the R&D budgets of Big Tech.

Second, organisations like the government catapults can act as a conduit between the public sector, the already AI-savvy tech sector and parts of the UK private sector that remain AI-hungry — including leading conversations around responsible, human-centred development and adoption.

Robert Elliott Smith
Director of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, Digital Catapult,
London NW1, UK

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