Spring Budget 2024: The government’s plans for AI, but do they go far enough?

In an era where technology shapes the future, the UK government is opening its eyes to artificial intelligence (AI). Through strategic investments and innovative applications, the government’s Spring Budget 2024 unveils a dual approach to harness AI’s transformative power. This article explores how the government plans to invest in AI and, importantly, how it intends to use these groundbreaking technologies. We also consider what more the government could do to support businesses to capture the benefits of AI.

Investing in AI: A Future-Forward Strategy

The UK’s commitment to AI is evident, with over £3.5 billion in public investment funnelled into the AI ecosystem since 2014. This figure includes an announcement last year of over £1.5 billion planned investment in computing power, a critical backbone for AI development. Here’s a snapshot of the government’s investment strategy:

  • Expanding Public Compute Capabilities: The imminent plan to detail access management to the UK’s cutting-edge public compute facilities aims to ensure that both researchers and innovative companies can tap into the computing power essential for developing world-class AI products.
  • AI Safety Institute (AISI) Milestones: The AISI, having recruited 30 leading AI safety experts, showcases the UK’s leadership in evaluating and ensuring the safety of frontier AI models, marking a significant step towards responsible AI development.
  • AI Upskilling Fund for SMEs: With a £7.4 million pilot, the government looks to bolster SMEs’ ability to harness AI, thereby opening up new avenues for innovation and productivity across the private sector.
  • Investment in the Alan Turing Institute: Pledging up to £100 million over the next five years, the government reaffirms its dedication to sustaining the UK as a global nexus of AI and data science research.

Utilising AI: Transforming Public Services and Safety

The government’s blueprint for AI goes beyond mere investment; it extends into practical applications that promise to benefit public services and enhance public safety:

  • Revolutionising Policing: By founding a Centre for Police Productivity and deploying AI technologies like live facial recognition and drones, the government aims to boost the efficiency of police forces significantly.
  • Counter Fraud Measures: A £34 million investment in expanding the Public Sector Fraud Authority with AI underscores the government’s commitment to safeguarding public finances against fraud.
  • Healthcare Innovation: The NHS is set to benefit from AI through improved service delivery and operational efficiency, highlighting the government’s approach to integrating AI into critical public services.
  • Enhancing Public Sector Productivity: From planning authorities to administrative processes, the government envisages a future where AI and automation streamline operations, reducing bureaucratic burdens and delivering services more effectively.

Do these initiatives go far enough for UK businesses?

While the UK government’s investments and applications in AI signal a commitment to technological advancement and public service enhancement, there remains room for a more ambitious approach, particularly in facilitating AI adoption among businesses. Do these initiatives go far enough in leveraging AI’s full potential within the business ecosystem? We argue they do not. Here are three ways the government could further bolster businesses in adopting AI.

1. Fostering an AI-Skilled Workforce

Investing in the upskilling of the current workforce and ensuring the next generation is AI-ready is crucial. While the £7.4 million upskilling fund pilot is a step in the right direction, a more expansive national AI education programme could have a far-reaching impact. This programme could include subsidised AI training courses, partnerships with universities to introduce more AI and data science degrees, and apprenticeships in AI-related fields. By cultivating a rich talent pool, the government can help businesses overcome one of the significant hurdles to AI adoption: the shortage of skilled AI professionals.

2. Tailored Tax Incentives for AI R&D

While the existing investment is shows support, the government could introduce more tailored tax incentives specifically designed for businesses engaging in AI research and development (R&D). Such incentives could include enhanced tax credits for SMEs investing in AI technologies, making it financially viable for more businesses to explore and integrate AI into their operations. This approach would not only support innovation but also level the playing field for smaller businesses eager to harness AI’s potential.

3. Strengthening AI Infrastructure Support

Beyond computing power, businesses need a comprehensive ecosystem that supports the deployment of AI. This includes access to high-quality data sets, advanced analytics tools, and secure cloud services. The government could play a pivotal role in facilitating access to these critical resources, perhaps by establishing public-private partnerships that enable businesses, especially SMEs, to access state-of-the-art AI infrastructure at reduced costs. Enhancing digital infrastructure, including broadband and 5G networks, would also underpin the widespread adoption and seamless integration of AI technologies.


The UK’s current trajectory in AI investment and application is a start, yet there’s room for much more ambitious actions. By introducing targeted tax incentives, strengthening AI infrastructure support, and fostering an AI-skilled workforce, the government can amplify AI adoption across businesses. Such initiatives would catalyse innovation and productivity but also ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the global AI revolution.

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