UK's AI startup scene has grown 600% over past decade

The country's £32.76 billion AI sector brought in £2.41 billion worth of investment in 2020 alone, according to Tech Nation

A blurred Union Jack flag behind digital imagery

The UK's AI startup ecosystem has grown 600% over the last ten years, jumping from just 180 firms to 1,300 by the start of 2021.

These AI companies are also growing across all regions of the UK, according to figures released by Tech Nation, with 50% of the country's top 10 AI firms outside of London.

The collective valuation of the sector is around $46.3 billion (£32.76bn), according to Tech Nation, with economic growth across the UK in areas such as fintech, cyber security, and healthtech. What's more, UK AI startups also employ almost 30,000 people and attracted $3.4 billion (£2.41bn) worth of investment last year.

The data has been released ahead of an AI summit on Wednesday, held in collaboration with the Office for AI and the AI Council. Key government and AI industry stakeholders will be in attendance to discuss how the UK is levelling up the AI ecosystem as the government develops its National AI Strategy and releases its 2021 AI Roadmap.

"The UK is a central hub for transformative AI technologies, and the staggering growth we are seeing in the sector is encouraging and exciting," said Gerard Grech, the chief executive of Tech Nation.

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"Last year alone, UK AI saw a 17% increase in VC investment, more than any other country. At this pivotal time, we must work to support and accelerate these businesses as they continue to shape our future; from transforming financial processes to tackling climate change and revolutionising modern healthcare."

Some of the country's most prominent AI firms include Darktrace, Graphcore, Signal AI, Benevolent AI, Tessian, and Tractable. While some of these are based in London, the UK can also point to growing AI hubs in Cambridge, Bristol, and Edinburgh.

For example, Bristol-based Graphcore is building next-generation AI chips, while Cambridge-based Darktrace launched a successful IPO earlier in the year.

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