The Tech Nation Report, billed as a snapshot of the state of the nation of UK tech, has been published since 2015. This year’s report highlights the importance of artificial intelligence and data science to the technology ecosystem. One of the key statistics is that the investment in AI grew almost six-fold between 2014 and 2018.
Tech company tracker Dealroom is one of the Tech Nation Report’s seven data partners. It recorded 82 venture capital fundraisings of more than $2million across UK companies in 2018. However, the total amount of capital raised by UK artificial intelligence companies hit $1.3 billion during the year. The report also took a global perspective and analysed the performance of UK tech clusters alongside those of other countries. Last year, French AI companies raised $400m and in Germany they raised $300m.
The report’s other data partners are; private equity and mergers and acquisitions database Pitchbook, software development platform GitHub, online connection space for developers Stack Overflow, online-real world group hosting platform Meetup, survey and insights company Streetbees and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In the past year, AI companies that have raised significant investment include Graphcore which raised $200m, Renalytix AI which raised $29m million and Beamery with $28 million. Five UK-based AI companies were found to be valued at $1 billion or more; Darktrace, Benevolent AI, Improbable, Graphcore and Blue Prism.
The insights team led by Dr George Windsor divided the report into three sections; global tech performance, people in tech and emerging technology.
For the people in tech section, the Tech Nation insights team looked at data from meetup.com to assess the collaborativenesss of technologists in different locations and subsectors. They found that data science was the second most popular meetup topic globally, after software development with just over 4,000 members around the world.
Bangalore is a hotbed for analytical collaboration with 31% of Bangalore meetup members involved in data science. For San Francisco the figure is 23% and in London and New York it is 22%. The insights team found that Mountain View has a high concentration of meetups on the topics of software development, data science and devops. In Germany, data science is clustered in Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. Also meetups in Singapore skew towards data science.
The section on emerging tech looks at future trends of global tech growth and, specifically at the location of scaleups – mature statups undergoing rapid expansion - with the highest quarterly growth rates around the world. Newcastle upon Tyne made the list for AI companies. AI scaleup companies between December 2018 and February 2019 grew by 78.9% in Foster City - a town 20 miles from Silicon Valley, 12.6% in Menlo Park and by 9% in Newcastle.
From looking at data from Google Trends, AI was seen to be a hot tech topic with hype peaking in late 2011, possibly related to IBM Watson winning Jeopardy game show. There have been subsequent surges in interest in AI perhaps due to comments from thought leaders such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.
The insight team did highlight the role of the media in fuelling the hype around AI. The wrote that the term is now ubiquitous, with 43% of online tech media mentioning AI but only 5.3% of tech meetups relate to it and just 3.2% of high-growth tech companies developing the technology. “The findings suggest that data science is the emerging tech to watch out for,” they said.
Windsor drew attention to three key points drawn from the findings. Firstly, that fast growth scaleup companies are driving tech investment. Secondly, that collaboration is necessary for the tech ecosystem to function. And finally, high-growth scaleups are driving technology forward. With data science and artificial intelligence extremely well represented among scaleups and members of meetup communities around the world, these technologies seem to be at the leading edge of innovation.