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£1bn AI sector deal is ‘world-leading opportunity’ for construction

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A new government-led initiative that aims to put the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence (AI) industry could have a huge impact on the construction industry.

That’s the view of Mark Farmer, founder of Cast Consultancy and author of construction report Modernise or Die.

Other industry figures said earlier this year that AI would likely transform many aspects of construction, including design, productivity, safety and building performance. 

The government’s £1bn AI sector deal, announced by business and energy secretary Greg Clark, has seen a contribution from more than 50 technology companies and organisations.

It includes almost £300m of private sector investment and more than £300m of government funding for AI research.

The deal marks the first phase of a major innovation-focused investment drive in AI which aims to help the UK seize what the government says is the £232bn opportunity AI offers the UK economy by 2030 (10% of GDP).

The deal aims to establish the UK as a research hotspot.

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It includes money for training for 8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025 and a commitment to develop a prestigious global Turing Fellowship programme to attract and retain the best research talent in AI to the UK.

The government plans for every secondary school to have a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher to give the next generation the skills they need to develop and capitalise on future technology.

Commenting on Twitter following the news, Farmer said: “We might not immediately see it but this AI sector deal could ultimately have as much if not more impact on property and construction as construction’s own sector deal.

He added: “Important this world leading opportunity is joined up as part of our overall national industrial strategy.”

Clark said: “Artificial intelligence provides limitless opportunities to develop new, efficient and accessible products and services which transform the way we live and work.

“Today’s new deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce to establish the UK as a driving force in the development and commercial use of artificial intelligence technologies.”

The government unveiled a sector deal for the construction industry in November last year. As part of the deal, it will invest £170m in the Transforming Construction programme, with industry committed to match-funding with a £250m investment.

The construction sector has four objectives to achieve by 2025:

  • 33% reduction in the cost of construction and the whole life cost of assets;
  • 50% reduction in the time taken from beginning-to-end of new build and refurbished assets;
  • 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment;
  • 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports of construction products and materials.

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Today’s new deal with industry will ensure we have the right investment, infrastructure and highly-skilled workforce to establish the UK as a driving force in the development and commercial use of artificial intelligence technologies.– Greg Clark, business and energy secretary