London’s mayor is assembling plans to make the city the next big AI hub

Greatest city in the world.
Greatest city in the world.
Image: Reuters/Mary Turner
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London’s thriving tech scene has long been top of mind for mayor Sadiq Khan. Since taking office in 2016, Khan backed a tech fund that created 1,000 jobs and launched a TechInvest program to get artificial-intelligence startups to bid for cash. He also lends himself to opening huge tech events; at one such event, Khan said he wanted to turn London into a “world-leading smart city.”

Now it looks like Khan is formally trying to fostering an AI industry in Britain’s capital by hiring a specialist AI research house, CognitionX. The firm will conduct an investigation that includes mapping London’s AI supplier base, identifying opportunities presented by AI, assessing how the city will attract and retain talent, and outlining what needs to be done to remove onerous barriers and support growth. After also benchmarking London’s AI potential against select international-city competitors, CognitionX will develop an action plan for the mayor that is expected to help shape local government policy around embedding AI more into infrastructure and industry, and around developing AI jobs and resources in London.

“London has a tremendous opportunity to build a world-class AI hub which serves a range of industries—from health care to finance to law—and which also helps build the AI-driven economy of the future in a way that works for all Londoners,” Khan told Quartz in a statement. He continued:

“This report will help to uncover the opportunities to unlock innovation and investment in London, in order to maximize the economic impact of AI on the city. It will also identify the challenges we face in positioning the capital as the best place to start, grow, or relocate an AI business. AI has the potential to transform almost every industry across the capital. London is in a strong position in the data economy and is already home to innovative, fast-growing companies like Deepmind (paywall), CityMapper, and Satalia—not to mention the kind of work being done to improve public services, such as the data-driven approach to understanding rent arrears emerging through Hackney Council’s partnership with Pivigo.”

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CognitionX, told Quartz that her company’s report will be delivered, and made public, by June 12. She said the report will help Khan and his office form policy and budgets down the line.

Just this week, delegates from around the world are gathered in London at Advertising Week, where the importance of AI in UK infrastructure and professional industries is a major topic of conversation.

“Take infrastructure,” says angel and venture investor Russ Shaw, who founded Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates. “AI can control congestion, drive efficiencies in the National Grid, or reduce road accidents with driverless cars. [Take] health care, where AI can diagnosis illnesses earlier–and more accurately—than humans ever could. We are just scratching the surface of potential use cases, but I would expect AI to transform the way we learn; save lives; and make urban living cheaper, faster, and easier.”