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The UK government is giving AI startups access to serious computation power at a new 'Machine Intelligence Garage'

Sam Shead
Artificial intelligence

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani


  • Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to boost the UK gross domestic product by £232 billion, according to PwC.
  • But AI startups in the UK say they're being constrained by a lack of access to serious computation power.
  • The government-backed Digital Catapult said its new "Machine Intelligence Garage" should help to fix the problem.


The UK government has pledged to give artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) startups access to computing resources and expertise through a new "Machine Intelligence Garage."

The initiative — announced by the government-led Digital Catapult organisation on Thursday — will launch on January 23, 2018 and run for three years.

AI could boost UK gross domestic product by around 10% by 2030, according to a report by PwC in June. But more than half of the UK's AI and machine learning (a field of computer science that gives machines the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed) startups are held back by a lack of access to computation power, according to a recent Digital Catapult survey.

"Access to computation power is amongst the significant barriers to innovation around machine learning and AI," said Dame Wendy Hall, the co-author of' "Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK" independent review, in a statement.

Machine learning systems have been achieving human-level performance in gaming and a variety of other domains recently, fuelled by large data sets. However, these techniques are expensive as a single training run for a machine learning system can cost over £10,000, according to the Digital Catapult.

Digital Catapult said the Machine Intelligence Garage will give AI and ML startups access to computing resources offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Google Cloud Platform, Nvidia, Graphcore, STFC Hartree Centre, EPCC, Newcastle University, the Alan Turing Institute, Bart's Health Trust and Capital Enterprise.

Applications for the Machine Intelligence Garage will open every six weeks, with the first open call going live on Thursday. The Digital Catapult expects to accept at least five companies for each cohort. 

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