Tianjin to set up $16bn AI fund

Tianjin, a port city in northern China, has announced that it will set up a fund worth $16bn to support AI development.

The planned investment was announced today (Thursday) by the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua. The commitment forms part of China’s aim to become the world leader in AI by 2025, opposing its main rival, the US.

Key sectors for development will be intelligent robots, hardware and software. $4.71bn (30bn yuan) of the funding has been set aside to focus on intelligent devices and intelligent upgrades

The pledge was made by Sun Wenkui, Vice Mayor of Tianjin, who added that up to $4.71mn (30mn yuan) would be spent on each scientific research institution that sets up in the city. Sun commented: “The funds are established to foster and expand the intelligent technology industry in the city.”

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An additional fund worth around $1.57bn will be set up in the future to promote intelligent manufacturing, however a date for this has not been set.  

In comparison, a commitment announced last month by the European Union Commission to spend $1.78bn on AI development by 2020 across the whole of the EU has been somewhat dwarfed by the Chinese announcement.

A recent Oxford University study investigated the race between the US and China to become the world’s leading AI superpower. The report, which was entitled ‘Deciphering China’s AI Dream’ and compiled by Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, stated that China lags behind the US in most areas of AI development.

“Access to data” was the only area in which China gained a higher score in the report, thanks to the data the nation has from over 700mn internet users, but “overall capacity for developing technologies in the field” left China with a score of 17 versus America’s 33.

The report added: “Marked by the State Council’s release of national safety for AI development in July 2017, China’s pursuit of AI has, arguably, been ‘the story’ of the past year.” The three-step programme has included building a domestic AI industry set to be worth $150bn, making the country an innovation centre for AI’ by 2030 and building a National Team for AI, which consists of prominent tech companies Baidu, Alibaba and iFlyTek.



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