Tech Nation announces Applied AI programme cohort

Tech Nation has announced the 32 companies that have been selected to join its Applied AI Growth programme.

The programme has been designed to support the UK’s most exceptional deep tech scaleups through peer-to-peer learning and mentoring sessions, addressing the particular scaling challenges for companies in the artificial intelligence sector. It forms part of the government's AI Sector Deal, announced in 2019 to realise the social and economic benefits of AI and harness its potential to transform people’s lives for the better.

Companies joining the programme are applying AI to solve real social problems, including tackling disinformation online, diagnosing conditions like cancer, and combating climate change.

Companies joining the programme include Panakeia, a universal engine for one-step precision cancer diagnosis backed by Hoxton Ventures; Archangel, which uses AI and drones to track wide areas of land to combat poaching; ILOF, which is creating a digital library of disease biomarkers to find a cure for Alzheimers; and Rahko, backed by Balderton to use quantum computing and AI for drug discovery.

Tech Nation revealed that 59 per cent of companies joining the programme are based outside of London, with the highest representation from the South East, East of England and Scotland. A further 44 per cent have a female founder, almost double the representation of female tech directors (23 per cent) in UK tech.

The UK leads Europe in AI investment, having raised $1.48 billion this year so far, in front of France ($538 million) and Germany ($400 million). The UK is currently third in the world for venture capital investment in AI after the US ($17.94 billion) and China ($9.55 billion).

The majority of AI investment so far this year has flowed into Big Data ($872 million), software-as-a-service ($588 million) and FinTech ($474.65 million).

Demand for AI skills is continuing to rise in the UK, with an increase of 111 per cent between 2017 and 2019. A quarter of all data scientist roles advertised in 2019 required AI as a skill - the highest proportion seen amongst digital tech roles in 2019.

Harry Rhys Davies, AI programme lead at Tech Nation, commented: “The UK must take every opportunity to nurture scalable, globally-competitive, homegrown AI companies that solve real problems and have far-reaching impacts on the productivity potential of the economy.

“Backed by leading VCs and led by an exceptionally talented group of founders, this cohort of companies is primed to make an impact.”

The programme received 179 applications from across the UK and judges included Sana Khareghani, head of the government office for AI; Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the government's AI Council; Nathan Benaich, general partner at Air Street Capital; and Mike Short, chief scientific advisor at the Department of International Trade.

Wilson Sonsini and CBRE are partners for the Applied AI 2.0 programme.

Of the latest Applied AI cohort, the average number of employees is 14, with an average revenue of £161,000 and £2.36 million raised through grants and/or equity.

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