Wednesday 20 February 2019 11:58 pm

UK AI sector funding hits record £1bn for 2018, almost the same as the rest of Europe combined

Investment into the UK’s artificial intelligence (AI) sector from venture capital firms reached a record $1.3bn (£998m) last year, almost as much as the rest of Europe combined.

The new figures from Dealroom represent a fourfold increase in five years, up from a total of $200m in 2014. In comparison, French AI startups raised $400m last year, while Germany raised $300m.

Major UK rounds in 2018 included Bristol-based Graphcore’s $200m raise, and London unicorn Darktrace’s $50m.

Read more: UK fintech investment hits all-time high of $3.3bn

The news comes as business secretary Greg Clark and digital secretary Jeremy Wright today announced a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI postgraduate courses, as well as £110m from the government.

The move aims to drive up skills in the AI sector, with course places funded by businesses such as Google’s Deepmind, BAE Systems and Cisco.

"The UK is not only the birthplace to the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, but we are leading the way on work to ensure AI innovation has ethics at its core," said Wright.

"We want to keep up this momentum and cement our reputation as pioneers in AI. Working with world class academic institutions and industry we will be able to train the next generation of top-tier AI talent and maintain the UK’s reputation as a trailblazer in emerging technologies."

Read more: Defence firm BAE plugs £20m into artificial intelligence on UK warships

The government will also fund a series of AI research fellowships at the Alan Turing Institute, and new PhDs will be created at dedicated AI centres for doctoral training across the country.

Tech Nation chief executive Gerard Grech said the figures prove the UK has "the strongest AI investment market in Europe". The data follows similar achievements in the UK fintech scene, which hit a record $3.3bn in funding last year.