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New competitions to back next wave of SME AI innovations


Small and medium sized businesses developing AI solutions in high-growth industries including agrifood, construction, transport and logistics, and the creative industries could receive a share of £7 million as two new competitions launch today (Friday 26th April).

The funding is drawn from UKRI’s Technology Missions Fund and delivered by Innovate UK’s Bridge AI programme, which supports businesses by allowing them to tap into training and scientific expertise, as well as offering wider expert advice and guidance.

The first of these competitions is backed by £5 million in funding and will work as a feasibility study for a range of AI solutions which address business challenges faced by the industry, so they can take advantage of AI’s transformative opportunities.

These solutions could help overcome a range of potential barriers and spark greater productivity, including the use of data to drive forward decision making, automating administrative tasks to free up more time for an organisation’s workforce, and refining how supply chains are sourced and managed.

The competition closes on Wednesday 8th May, and applicants can put forward a range of responsible and trustworthy AI solutions which will all ramp up productivity. It is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) who are looking to tackle a range of challenges either in collaboration with another small business or an academic institution.

Ahead of the application deadline, UKRI have been engaging extensively with potential applicants, including an in-person workshop event and an online briefing session which both took place last month.
The second competition will see one hundred projects working in areas such as fashion and farming able to apply for a share of £2 million.

Closing on the 8th May, these projects have previously received funding through the competition and are now encouraged to apply for further investment which will allow them to develop their ideas into game-changing AI innovations.

Previously funded projects in this competition include an AI-powered cloth recycling tool for use in the fashion industry, AI solutions which help fire and rescue services across the country move their fleets towards net zero, and new solutions to detect and predict diseases in grape crops.

These competitions underline the UK’s commitment to a pro-innovation approach to AI, which lies at the heart of its regulatory approach to the technology.

February’s response to the AI Regulation White Paper establishes the roadmap the UK Government will follow to ensure AI innovations can deliver transformative change for people across the country.
Further details and support for applicants filling out the online application page can be found here.
Minister for AI and Intellectual Property Viscount Camrose said:

“AI is the defining technology of our generation, and we are backing businesses and academia to work hand-in-glove to bring the next wave of brilliant AI innovations to life.

“These competitions are further evidence of our commitment to pursuing a pro-innovation approach to AI, which sits at the heart of our plans for how we can safely and successfully manage this technology.

“There can be no doubt that AI is a technology which demands a team effort, whether that’s in our approach to safety, or exploring how we can harness its incredible opportunities. By working together, we can tap into the enormous potential of AI to ramp up productivity and deliver transformative change.”

Dr Kedar Pandya, UKRI Technology Missions Fund Senior Responsible Owner and Executive Director of Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said:

“These two new competitions funded through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund will help to develop novel AI solutions to boost productivity across many of the UK’s high-growth sectors.

By bringing together businesses and research organisations through these funding opportunities, we are helping to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies and deliver benefits to our society and the UK economy”

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