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UK-Netherlands & Artificial Intelligence Report

Posted 17 Dec 2021

Policies, trends and opportunities for bilateral collaboration

The Embassy of the Netherlands in the UK commissioned Digital Catapult to produce a report on key developments in the field of AI in the UK, including the policy and regulatory landscape, routes to market & barriers, and opportunities and recommendations for bilateral collaboration between the UK and the Netherlands on artificial intelligence (AI).

Executive summary

The UK has a burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI) community across the country, with London being the number one city in Europe for AI, boasting strong investor networks and some of the best in class AI research universities and institutions. There are a number of cutting-edge advanced machine learning (ML) techniques that are being harnessed by universities and companies of all sizes, especially around federated learning (defined in the introduction) and explainable AI.

The UK government has demonstrated its commitment to the development and deployment of AI – and broader ambitions – through a number of existing and upcoming strategies, funding opportunities, policies, and dedicated teams within government departments. Major commitments include the recently published AI Strategy and the AI Sector Deal, as well as the work being advanced by the joint-departmental Office for AI, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) and many more. The government and other government-funded bodies, such as Innovate UK, have supported a robust portfolio of AI projects, all of which have started to demonstrate their potential to hugely benefit the economy.

Large untapped benefits from AI and machine learning still exist. The pandemic has driven change in unprecedented ways in societies across the world. As a result, we have seen businesses moving to digitalise faster than ever in order to cope with the challenges and opportunities being experienced through remote working; health, safety and social distancing; changing consumer habits and shocks to supply chains. And all this is coinciding with increasing urgency to address the challenges of the climate emergency.

AI and other advanced digital technologies are the fundamental building blocks for future economic growth and competitiveness around the world, spanning transformational capabilities, especially in combination with immersive technologies such as: virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR); blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT); advanced digital networks (5G); the internet of things (IoT); and – in the future – quantum computing. These technology families are important in their own right, but even more so when combined with complex cyber-physical systems.

The UK’s corporate and startup community, coupled with a number of government-funded initiatives, places the UK in a unique position to harness the power of advanced digital technologies. The opportunity for AI to reform logistics and manufacturing operations and make them more resilient and sustainable, or to enable smarter cities, food systems and workplaces, is vast. Good AI design, development and deployment can be promoted through robust government policy and intervention to support both innovative startups and established industry sectors. There are also ample opportunities for bilateral collaboration on AI – connecting key priorities between two countries.

This report first addresses the trends within the AI ecosystem in the UK and abroad, before delving into the ways in which the UK government is supporting the AI and innovation ecosystem. It then provides an overview of some of the regulatory trends and how these can affect the AI ecosystem and innovation at large. The report then points to some opportunities that AI can bring for key sectors of the economy by providing specific case studies. It then outlines a number of barriers to adoption for both the supply and demand side of the AI ecosystem, which have been identified through primary and secondary research.

Finally, the report draws some parallels with the AI ecosystem in the Netherlands, and addresses a number of ways in which the Dutch government could best engage with the AI community in the UK. As the leading UK authority on advanced digital technologies, Digital Catapult recommends that the Dutch government engages in bilateral innovation and R&D activities with the UK to capitalise on and benefit from the UK’s world-leading AI startup community and research centres.