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Digital Catapult accelerator unlocks £52 million investment for UK AI startups

Posted 23 Nov 2021

Machine Intelligence Garage, the flagship artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) acceleration programme from Digital Catapult, has supported more than 100 UK startups, contributing a total of £52million of investment, since launching in late 2017.

With AI technologies continuing to transform the global economy, more than half of the participating startups have significantly increased their turnover, and roughly two thirds have grown the number of employees, providing a boost to the UK tech sector before and during the pandemic.

The diversity of the teams participating in the Machine Intelligence Garage programme was also notable, with nearly three quarters of participating teams being ethnically diverse, and just under half were gender diverse or from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

By offering free access to a range of computation resources, technical expertise and support with business, investment and applied AI ethics, the programme helps early-stage AI businesses overcome some of the major obstacles hindering their growth.

Now moving into its fourth year, Digital Catapult has released an impact report on the key highlights from the programme including:

£52 million of investment raised by participants

52% of participants increased their turnover

67% of startups grew the number of employees

2.5 jobs created on average per company

73% were diverse in ethnicity

46% had a diverse socio-economic background

42% were gender-diverse

16% of founders were female

Building on this success, Digital Catapult recently recruited four new partners to provide the compute power and support for the next generation of Machine Intelligence Garage participants. Joining the programme’s established partners including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and NVIDIA are:

  • Cerebras Systems
  • Earlham Institute
  • Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
  • LightOn

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult said:

“In 2017, Digital Catapult identified a need among UK deep tech AI entrepreneurs for an acceleration programme to help them through the early stages of development when access to advanced compute capability, business model guidance and of course investment are critical. Born out of this need, Machine Intelligence Garage brought together the key pillars of support that would be most valuable to these pioneering startups.

“It’s fantastic to see the impact the programme has had, after four years, not only for the businesses that have participated, but also for the wider UK economy and technology ecosystem. In the most challenging of times, the programme has shown adaptability and is today an essential stepping stone for the UK’s most successful high growth, deep tech AI startups.”

“With the UK Government’s Innovation Strategy and AI Strategy set to drive industrial uptake of these kinds of advanced digital technologies, we’re committed to ensuring that the Machine Intelligence Garage programme continues to accelerate the growth of the UK’s artificial intelligence startups.”

Dame Wendy Hall DBE FRS FREng, Regius Professor of Computer Science, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International Engagement) at the University of Southampton, added:

“As a member of Digital Catapult’s AI Ethics Committee, I have been able to observe first hand the high quality, innovative AI solutions developed by participants of the Machine Intelligence Garage programme. Seeing these inspirational founders go on to obtain the critical investment they need to scale their business is wonderful validation of the programme and the work of the Digital Catapult team.

“With diversity, equality and inclusion embedded into Digital Catapult’s framework for the responsible adoption of AI, it’s hugely encouraging to see the participation of highly diverse teams in the three years of Machine Intelligence Garage. This will ultimately provide the basis for a fair and equal application of machine learning technologies in the UK”

Machine Intelligence Garage has supported the likes of startup Bloomsbury AI, who was snapped up by Facebook in 2018, and Greyparrot, who raised millions in investment after participating in the programme, and was listed in the World Economic Forum’s 100 most promising global technology providers, 2021.

Meanwhile, DeepMiner took part in the programme to boost its B2B search tool:

Áine Uí Ghiollagáin, Co-Founder and CTO, DeepMiner said:

“Machine Intelligence Garage has opened doors and helped us focus on key aspects of the responsible use of AI and company development, enabling us to provide better value for clients, expand our business, and seek investment.”

This impact report comes as Digital Catapult also releases its Digital Future Index 2021, which highlights the UK’s strong AI ecosystem. The report found that the UK has an average of £4.8m in funding per company (5th highest globally), while 25.4% of UK AI companies are generating an estimated $1m+ of revenue per annum.

Applications for the next Machine Intelligence Garage cohort open on Monday 6 December 2021. Any early-stage company developing artificial intelligence or machine learning solutions for the manufacturing industry can pre-register interest at