London SMEs to get an AI boost

Small businesses in London are to be offered funding and expert advice to help them capitalise on the latest advances in artificial intelligence, it was announced this week.

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The first phase of an AI initiative unveiled by Mayor Sadiq Khan will see 200 small retailers and hospitality companies given the chance to apply for funding to help them develop using AI and to obtain consultations with a dedicated caseworker to help identify how AI can assist their businesses."London is well established as the AI capital of Europe: last year, leading London-based AI advice platform CognitionX released a report that showed the capital was home to more than 750 companies in this field – more than twice as many as its closest rivals, Paris and Berlin, combined," said the mayor's office."Larger companies have an advantage in accessing AI due to greater reserves of funding and resources, while smaller businesses are often unable to take advantage of the benefits these innovations can bring – something the Mayor’s Technology for Business scheme will tackle head-on."

What will the London mayor's SME AI scheme do?

The scheme is aimed at giving small enterprises tools to provide retailers with 24/7 support for their customers; to give hotels tailored, personalised recommendations for their guests; and to connect businesses with potential customers via web, mobile and social platforms.
Read more about AI, technology, and talent shortages:
Mr Khan said: “London is a leading hub for innovation in artificial intelligence and some of the advances being made right here in the capital are revolutionising how business is done.“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and I firmly believe these innovations should be available to companies of all sizes, not just the ones with the deepest pockets. This new initiative is an important opportunity for start-ups and scale-ups to harness the potential of exciting new technology.“I encourage small and growing retailers and hospitality companies to apply to this first round of the scheme, and to explore how AI can help improve their day-to-day operations and better meet the needs of their customers.”

"London is one of the best places in the world for innovation"

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CognitionX, added: “London is one of the best places in the world for innovation and we have a unique opportunity to catalyse adoption of artificial intelligence with the businesses that will benefit the most.“I’m thrilled to be part of this initiative alongside the Mayor of London who is committed to democratising access to the incentives and information needed for SMEs to access the power of AI."The London initiative coincided with publication of a report showing that 51% of companies had forced to leave a job open because of a shortage of candidates with digital skills.

Britain: digital skills need to improve to avoid continued IT and digital skill gaps

Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, commented: "While the specific skills that employers are seeking have changed dramatically over the past two decades, the fact that talent gaps continue to be aligned with technical competencies suggests that we need to do more to boost Britain's digital capabilities. "Our members have long reported shortages of talent across the IT and digital fields. For this reason, it is crucial that we ensure that we retain access to the STEM professionals that businesses need in the short term through maintaining access to global talent and retaining our flexible labour market."However, perhaps more importantly, we must pipeline the calibre and volume of skills we need for the future so that we break free from this perpetual skills shortage. As this data indicates, for the past 20 years we have been playing catch-up and we must break the cycle if individual businesses, and the wider UK economy, are to fulfil their full potential."
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