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New £12M Fund for Professional Services Innovation

Ross Kelly


Neurodiversity Scotland Data innovation

Accountancy, insurance and legal services have access to new innovation funding that could help transform business and professional services in the UK

The UK Government has aspirations to market Britain as a world-leader in technology fields such as artificial intelligence, and in a post-Brexit economy, funding for innovative startups and business endeavours will be critical.

Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge FundUK Research and Innovation will offer organisations across the country an opportunity to apply for a share of £12 million in funding to transform accountancy, insurance and legal services. The services industries could see incredible change through projects to introduce AI and data technologies into the sector.

Facing Global Competition

Industries such as accountancy or legal services will continue to face stiff competition from overseas as Britain travels down a new path in a world experiencing an ongoing digital and technological transformation.

Within these specific industries, a number of challenges will be faced in coming years, such as identifying and preventing fraud, assessing risk and reviewing large quantities of data and information. Artificial intelligence and data technologies could help to meet the demands placed on these sectors; improving the efficiency of services, overall productivity and ensuring organisations remain competitive.

This opportunity for businesses is part of the next-generation services challenge, a £20 million fund to develop innovative products and services that will transform the services industry in the UK. Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the coming together of business and world-leading research will enable the nation to take on the major industrial and societal challenges of a new age.

Next-Generation Services

Services account for around 80% of the UK economy, with financial and professional services alone employing upwards of 2.2 million people and valued at a staggering £190 billion.

As new technologies arise, so too does the need to take action and stay ahead of the curve; else be left at a disadvantage in the world economy. Taking advantage of new tech will greatly improve services across the country and ensure that development continues. There are a number of exemplary projects currently ongoing in the UK in regards to tech-enhanced services, with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) introducing AI software to assist in the processing of documents.

The SFO’s new technology system, Axcelerate, is expected to cost roughly £12 million over its seven year lifespan, however this investment will pay dividends in the long term.

The SFO claims that AI-assisted processing will speed up investigations, reduce costs and be more efficient in reducing rate of human error. The technology is estimated to be 80% cheaper than engaging outside legal counsel to review submitted documents to identify the privileged material and has the capacity to process more than half a million documents a day.

In that instance there were over 30 million documents submitted for review, the AI system was able to analyse and process the information 2,000 times faster than a human lawyer and assisted significantly in the SFO’s successful prosecution. The outcome of that case resulted in Rolls-Royce paying out £671m to the SFO.

Competition Types

There are two competition types available in this area:

  • large, collaborative projects that seek to address sector-wide challenges across supply chains or regulators
  • smaller projects that focus specifically on applying artificial intelligence and data techniques into an organisation’s operations

Innovate UK are particularly interested in attracting organisations focusing on machine-supported decision-making, reasonableness and justice in AI.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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