The U.K. is currently third in the world for raising investment in AI and second for the number of AI companies in operation during 2019 (Crunchbase data). Still, 89% of the AI ecosystem in the U.K. consists of startups with 50 or fewer employees. Starting is not an issue, scaling is.
“For the U.K. to maintain its authority in AI, we need to nurture scalable, globally-competitive, homegrown AI companies that solve real problems. Yet, the pool of AI-focused companies that achieve this beyond Series A remains slim, despite the hype, and the path to scale is uniquely challenging,” comments Harry Davies, Applied AI Lead at Tech Nation.
The challenges faced by AI startups vary, from hiring in-demand technical talent to getting commercial support and selling in the context of highly regulated industries. The Applied AI Programme designed by Tech Nation and supported by Faculty aims to help them as they face these challenges and move from the early stages of growth (I wrote more about it here).
“We’re all fully aware of AI’s potential to benefit certain industries, but this programme is about more than concepts or ideas. The successful companies convinced us that they’re already on the path to a commercially scalable product, and we’re looking forward to helping them navigate such a crucial stage of their businesses’ journey,’’ explains Gerard Grech, Tech Nation’s CEO.
On average, the startups accepted have teams of 12, have been operating for the past 3 years and have already raised £1.9 million–investors include LocalGlobe, Entrepreneur First, IQ Capital, Pentech and SpeedInvest.
Tabitha Golstaub, Chair of AI Council and CognitionX’s Founder, commends the strength of technical expertise and diversity of the cohort.
“With 35% operating outside of London and nearly half of the cohort’s participants having at least one female founder I think this represents the AI community well and exactly what we should be championing.”
What has resonated most with the startups about the programme is the access to role models in the sector along with the opportunity for peer to peer learning and support. As Camille Rougie, Co-Founder & CEO of Plural AI, shares, “entrepreneurship is quite the lonely pursuit and I’ve found the biggest help has always come from other founders sharing tips and war stories.”
The cohort points to the current state of AI innovation in the U.K., with firms applying AI to a range of issues and sectors. The hope is that, “AI can act as a force for economic transformation and as a means to tackle some of society’s most challenging issues,” summarizes Joanna Shields, BenevolentAI’s CEO.
AI research within medicine is growing rapidly, enabling new possibilities in diagnosis, drug discovery and patient monitoring. The applications can be transformative for the industry, as they promise to increase accuracy and efficacy and save time, costs and lives. It’s predicted that, in the coming decade, developers will have a greater impact on the future of healthcare than doctors.
Antiverse is building a computational platform to accelerate antibody drug discovery. C The Signs and ClinSpec Dx are both fighting cancer with early diagnosis. ThinkSono is building software that enables nursing staff to detect deep vein thrombosis (DVT), considered the number one cause of preventable hospital death. BIOS is creating the open standard hardware and software interface between the human nervous system and AI.
A quarter of AI startups serving a business function focus on marketing teams. Of those, most applications focus on customer segmentation, content personalisation and turning raw data into valuable insight for marketeers.
Codec helps brands identify the audience networks that matter most to them, with rich insights into how they can win their engagement and grow. Bibblio helps content owners navigate the attention economy by matching the right content to their audience through AI. Wordnerds wants to help organisations understand text–whether it’s tweets and social media, online reviews and forums or customer service emails–and turn the internet into the world’s biggest focus group. Dream Agility helps digital advertisers manage every aspect of Google Ads.
One of the biggest problems in media today is the proliferation of fake news. Factmata is looking to develop a better understanding of online information and rebuild trust in the internet. Astroscreen uses AI to protect brands and defend democracy from harmful social media manipulation campaigns, also known as astroturfing.
Calipsa is aiming to empower security professionals worldwide to make better decisions, in real-time (e.g. using cloud-based AI technology to identify the cause of a CCTV alarm, filtering out over 85% of false alarms and forwarding only true alarms to human operators to review). Synthesized helps companies share and access siloed information safer and faster. It does so by generating synthetic data that mimics original data, thereby unlocking data’s potential whilst protecting people’s privacy.
Breakthroughs in computer vision have brought autonomous vehicles in the spotlight. Safety remains at the centre of the conversation. Applications need to run realistic simulations and enable scalable, fast and robust testing. This is critical for the development and certification of autonomous vehicles.
Humanising Autonomy has developed a pedestrian intent prediction platform to make autonomous vehicles safer and more efficient in urban environments. Latent Logic also ensures that autonomous vehicles can coexist and interact safely with humans in the real world. They use machine learning to build realistic simulations of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Predina uses AI to build a dynamic risk map platform (STARI) that predicts and prevents the risk of road crashes based on contextual (spatio-temporal data) and historical accidents. Wluper is building Conversational AI at the intersection of Natural Language Processing, Dialogue, and Knowledge Bases. Currently used for transport and navigation.
In several sectors, professionals spend a third or more of their time collecting or synthesising data, which presents an opportunity for AI applications. In finance and insurance, about 50% of the overall time of the workforce is devoted to collecting and processing data.
Chosen AI is a people analytics platform that uses advanced Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning to help employers identify and optimise the potential of their existing employees. Gapsquare enables companies worldwide to track pay disparity, pay equality and pay gap data. People Matter Tech’s mental wellness platform is a safe online space that measures and improves mental wellness at work, without surveys. Its AI aims to learn who you are and how your digital environment impacts your burnout risk, offering personalised recommendations.
Design: DigitalBridge is a Guided Design platform that enables retailers to help their customers design and buy their dream bathroom or kitchen.
Product Development: Monolith AI has developed a software that combines AI, tailored visualisation tools and high-performance computing to enhance the productivity and knowledge of engineers, predict results ahead of time and accelerate product development.
Manufacturing: Flexciton uses AI to optimise production scheduling for manufacturers.
Legal: Genie AI uses machine learning to curate and share relevant legal knowledge within a firm or legal team, empowering lawyers to draft with the collective intelligence of the firm.
Infrastructure: SenSat builds digital simulations of the real world to help computers solve complex problems.
Waste management: Greyparrot is improving and automating the recycling process by enabling waste composition analysis and sorting of waste types. It does so by using deep learning to power next-generation robotics and smart systems for waste management.
Environment: Cervest helps businesses, governments and growers adapt to climate volatility. It uses machine learning to generate real-time streamed climate signals to answer questions linked to climate uncertainty, land and natural resources.