Mayor of London commits funding and support for companies to access latest technology

Small businesses across London could soon benefit from the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI), thanks to a new initiative from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

London is well established as the AI capital of Europe: last year, leading London-based AI advice platform Cognition X released a report which showed the capital was home to more than 750 companies in this field – more than twice as many as its closest rivals, Paris and Berlin, combined.

AI is defined as a computer system capable of performing tasks which normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and translation between languages.

Larger companies have an advantage in accessing AI due to greater reserves of funding and resources, while smaller businesses are often unable to take advantage of the benefits these innovations can bring – something the Mayor’s Technology for Business scheme will tackle head-on.

The first phase of the project will see 200 small retailers and hospitality companies offered access to a total pot of £200,000 to help them grow and develop using these advanced tools, including a consultation with a dedicated caseworker who will help identify how AI can meet their needs.

In this first round of the scheme, successful applicants will gain access to a range of tools, which could provide retailers with 24/7 support for their customers; give hotels tailored, personalised recommendations for their guests; or connect businesses with potential customers via web, mobile and social platforms.

Last year the Mayor announced his ambition to make London the smartest city in the world, as he unveiled his Smarter London Together roadmap. This masterplan includes making London a global test-bed city for innovation, where the best ideas – such as those emerging from the AI sector – are developed and spread around the world.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London is a leading hub for innovation in artificial intelligence and some of the advances being made right here in the capital are revolutionising how business is done.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and I firmly believe these innovations should be available to companies of all sizes, not just the ones with the deepest pockets. This new initiative is an important opportunity for start-ups and scale-ups to harness the potential of exciting new technology.”

Co-founder of CognitionX, Tabitha Goldstaub, said: “London is one of the best places in the world for innovation and we have a unique opportunity to catalyse adoption of artificial intelligence with the businesses that will benefit the most.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this initiative alongside the Mayor of London who is committed to democratising access to the incentives and information needed for SMEs to access the power of AI”

Innovation Fellow at the London School of Economics, Dr Anna Valero, said: “It’s really important that new business support policies are based on evidence of what works.

“The evaluation of this innovative programme will help inform both local and national government on the most effective ways to improve access to new technologies for smaller businesses, and ultimately help them grow.”

The funding has been allocated by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the scheme will be delivered in partnership with the London School of Economics, Capital Enterprise and CognitionX.

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