Cisco and UCL plan to build a £77m AI research centre

Tech giant will funnel funding into UK to bring AI innovation to more industries

Cisco is set to pump $100 million (76.8 million) into building one of the world's largest AI research centres with University College London (UCL), aiming to spur innovation in machine learning, big data and autonomous vehicles.

The UK government welcomed the plans, with prime minister Theresa May and digital secretary Jeremy Wright saying the initiative will run hand-in-hand with the government's industrial strategy that aims to generate 230 billion to the UK economy by 2030. 

Once built, the centre will house more than 200 academics and researchers and will train new talent in AI and innovation, digital skills and more as the centre seeks to expand the use of AI to different industries.

"The UK has become the natural destination in Europe for the largest and most innovative tech companies to operate and invest," Wright said, according to City AM. "Cisco's strong commitment to the UK highlights we have the ambition, research excellence and regulatory environment for world-leading firms to develop the innovations that will change people's lives for the better."

The scheme was unveiled at Downing Street at the end of last week and May described it as a vote of confidence in the government's industrial strategy. It follows figures released last month showing that London hosts twice the number of AI firms as Paris and Berlin combined, with Mayor Sadiq Khan describing it as offering "a strong pipeline of AI innovation".

"We believe that the UK's expertise in AI and its commitment to making sure future innovators have the right digital skills will help ensure the nation's citizens are well-positioned to capture the opportunity ahead," Chuck Robbins, Cisco's chairman and chief executive, said about his company's investment.

"It's wonderful to renew our partnership with Cisco and work together to upskill the UK in machine learning and artificial intelligence," UCL provost, Professor Michael Arthur, added. "I'm particularly looking forward to opening the new AI Centre in the coming months to position us as a sector leader in computer science."

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