Britain pumps cash into artificial intelligence before Brexit

Britain's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Britain pumps cash into artificial intelligence before Brexit

  • The UK will announce a £1 billion joint investment in the artificial intelligence industry
  • It’s evident that Britain is a place that people want to come to for AI: business minister

LONDON: Britain announced on Thursday a £1 billion ($1.4 billion) joint investment in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry to capitalize on what the government sees as a competitive advantage in the sector as it prepares for life after Brexit.
The deal is the latest in a series of targeted public-private investment pacts in the government’s industrial strategy that aims to modernize Britain’s economy and address decades of regional and industrial decline.
“It’s evident that Britain is a place that people want to come to for AI,” business minister Greg Clark told Reuters during a visit to a facility in London that nurtures early-stage tech businesses from across the world.
“We have a position of strength that we want to capitalize on because if we don’t build on it the other countries around the world would steal a march.”
Governments worldwide are plowing cash AI to keep up with international rivals and seeking to harness its power to transform industries from transport to agriculture.
The European Union said on Wednesday it would boost AI investment by about 70 percent to €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) by 2020 to catch up with Asia and the United States, which are each investing at least three times more than Europe.
Despite offering less investment, ministers said Britain had advantages because it had established research capabilities, boasted a global financial center in London and hosted the headquarters of many major firms.
“The cross-fertilization that is at the core of the impact of artificial intelligence can happen here more easily than elsewhere,” digital, culture, media and sport minister Matt Hancock told Reuters.
The government said the AI industry could generate £232 billion for the British economy by 2030.
Britain’s industrial strategy is a flagship project for Prime Minister Theresa May, but critics say it lacks detail and any measurable progress since it was launched two years ago.
The strategy has focused on areas such as high-tech manufacturing, AI, cars and battery technology to help rebalance a services-based economy with declining traditional industries.
The investment announced on Thursday includes nearly £300 million of private investment in projects such as a University of Cambridge AI supercomputer, and cash spent on European bases in Britain for Japanese and Canadian venture capital firms.
Those funds will be matched by more than £300 million of public funding, on top of an existing £400 million budget. The funds will be spent on teacher training, research and developing regional technology hubs to explore how AI can be used in industries such as law and insurance.
A Center for Data Ethics and Innovation, look at ensuring the safe development of data driven technologies and ways to protect consumers, will also be set up.


Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

Updated 17 October 2018
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Maalem Financing raises $26m in debut sukuk

  • The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal
  • The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Maalem Financing has raised SR100 million ($26.6 million) from a debut sale of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, as the firm seeks to develop a crowdfunding product and expand its operations, a senior executive said on Tuesday.
The sukuk from Maalem, a shariah-compliant commercial and consumer financing firm, is a small but novel deal in a market that is dominated by issuance from sovereign institutions and Islamic banks.
The three-year unsubordinated deal was sold through a private placement and Maalem could tap the market again as early as January next year, said John Sandwick, a member of Maalem’s board of directors.
“The program is for SR500 million and with 3.6 times oversubscription, there seems to be a lot of demand,” he said.
Additional sales of sukuk aimed to raise between SR100 million and SR200 million, depending on market conditions, he said, adding that Maalem may consider a dollar-denominated sukuk issuance at a later stage.
The debut transaction used a structure known as murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement commonly used in Saudi Arabia. The firm hoped to use an asset-backed structure for future deals, Sandwick said.
Established in 2009, Maalem received regulatory approval to operate as a non-real estate finance company in 2016 and increased its capital in 2017 to SR150 million.
The company plans to open several regional offices by the end of 2018 and is awaiting regulatory approval for a crowdfunding license, Sandwick said.
Crowdfunding enables startup firms to collect small sums of money from many individuals as an alternative to bank loans.
Albilad Capital, the investment banking unit of Bank Albilad, served as sole lead manager and arranger of the sukuk.