Cambridge could be first in line to benefit from a growing appetite for artificial intelligence in business and the public sector, new research has revealed.

The university city scored highest in the AI-readiness Index devised by AI and analytics specialist SAS – closely followed by friendly rival, Oxford.

The index is compiled from seven criteria, including the number of AI-related MSc courses and job ads, tech meet-ups and amount of investment from Innovate UK in a town or city.

Along with having the highest amount of AI-related jobs within a five-mile radius, Cambridge also has a 43% five-year business growth rate, and one of the highest volumes of research and development spend.

Manchester and Salford also look like a force to be reckoned in the AI stakes, taking third and fourth place respectively. Collectively, they have 1,392 AI-related jobs available – the most outside London – indicating high demand for people with data skills. 

RankCityUniversity MSc coursesJobs nearbyGDP/per headMeetup events5yr business growthR&D spend by £mInnovate UK spend by £mIndex score out of 700

The analysis also revealed which parts of the UK are least prepared to utilise AI to its full potential, and benefit from the jobs and investment it can bring.

Despite seven of the least AI-ready cities being in the devolved nations, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff all appear in the top 15 of the most AI-ready cities, with Edinburgh having the second highest number of AI-related courses overall.

In the capital, Camden placed first in the rankings of the most AI-ready London boroughs, followed by Westminster and Hackney.  

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“AI, machine learning and data analytics are transforming the way businesses and other organisations operate, and the fact that so many cities are embracing it as a positive sign. Many, such as Manchester and Salford, are outside London and the South East, which is good news for the government’s ‘levelling up’ plans,” said Glyn Townsend, senior director of education services at SAS for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“At the same time, our research also shows large discrepancies between the most and least-prepared areas. Size and the remoteness of the location might explain why some are lagging behind – but it’s important they’re given opportunities to get up to speed.

“For a start, the UK doesn’t have enough data talent to meet demand for AI, so we need to increase the talent pool with more opportunities for people to upskill and reskill, instead of only relying on graduates.

“Government figures show there are up to 234,000 vacancies for ‘hard data skills’, yet only a potential supply of 10,000 graduates per year. We need to look to supplement this with clear learning paths and career progression for others too, such as Modern Apprenticeships, and continual learning. 

“Businesses should also take real advantage of the apprenticeship levy, and the significant return on investment that training provides.”

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