AI will power Britain’s post-Brexit boom, says Matt Hancock

DCMS secretary believes tech can be the future pillar of the UK's economy

The head of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said that new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence will be crucial in making Britain's economy a success following the UK's planned exit from the EU next year.

Speaking at the launch of a new cyber security  innovation centre housed in Here East's Plexal tech campus in London's Olympic Park, secretary of state for digital Matt Hancock emphasised how important Britain's flourishing tech sector is to Britain's economy.

"Seizing this new technology can be the basis of our nation's success after Brexit, for the rest of the 21st century," he said. "What we need to do now to make that vision a reality. Because I profoundly believe that cutting edge technology, coupled with creative and artistic genius, is the fulcrum upon which our country will be built."

"Faster than ever before, the world we live in is being changed. How we earn our way around the world and how we build jobs and prosperity here at home, and we now have the chance to build on what we have done over the past decade and truly capitalise on this opportunity. Cutting-edge technology ultimately is the future of our economy."

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Hancock pointed out that the UK's tech sector is currently booming; the last year saw tech investment double, and the area is growing at three times the rate of the rest of the economy. London is the top city in Europe for tech and globally, the UK is behind only China and the US in terms of its level of tech investment.

In particular, he said, Britain is renowned as an authority on AI, with numerous researchers and companies making great strides in the field.

The reason Britain is such a leading light in AI R&D, according to Hancock, is that it has strong cyber security, robust data protection principles and a good ethical standpoint, as well as firm links between academic institutions, businesses and governments.

"All of the great advances in the human condition have been led by improvements in knowledge and collective intelligence," Hancock stated. "This one is no different - except in that the intelligence is not just in the connection of human minds. Whether it's improving travel, making banking easier or helping people live longer, AI is already integral to our economy and our society."

One of the crucial issues the government is banking on AI to solve is healthcare. The government wants to diagnose 50,000 more cancer patients at early stages within the next 15 years using AI, opening up "properly safeguarded" NHS datasets to AI and med-tech companies in order to achieve this.

Hancock also announced that DCMS will be aided and advised by leading lights such as DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis, CognitionX co-founder Tabitha Goldstaub and Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who co-authored the government's AI review.

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"Ultimately, AI will transform our lives like never before," he said. "And we want it to transform society for the better and for it to be designed and developed right here in the UK, because as we leave the EU, what better way to show that we are an open and outward looking nation than becoming the natural habitat for the world's most cutting edge technology?"

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