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Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund invests £20m to help service industry take advantage of new technologies

A new pioneer fund worth £20 million will create new opportunities for businesses and researchers to work together to develop the next generation of services for the accountancy, insurance and legal industries.

The ESRC, on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has recently announced the Next Generation Services research call – the objective of the Challenge is to maintain the UK’s leadership in global high-value services by developing a targeted approach to support R&D in the emerging new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the data economy, one of four ‘Grand Challenge’ areas identified in the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper.

This is a ‘Pioneer’ initiative that focuses in the first instance on the accountancy, legal services and insurance industries. The UK is recognised as a global leader in these industries which all share an ultimate reliance on the knowledge, experience and skills of their trained professionals to maintain their competitive advantage in delivering the services they provide. However, the fund recognises the potential impact of new AI technologies which, in principle offer the potential of transformative change in the service sectors. This could be achieved by processing complex data faster and more accurately than can be done by humans, identifying patterns in the data which would otherwise not be visible and using this to forecast, target relevant information, recognise mistakes and spot inconsistencies.

The Next Generation Services Research Programme is one of two elements to this Challenge, the other element being a Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) programme, aimed at business-led consortia with the object of accelerating the adoption of AI technologies in the targeted sectors (to be launched in June).

The call focuses on identifying the potential opportunities offered by the application of new technologies in the targeted sectors as well as the potential barriers to adoption and how to resolve these so that the benefits offered by the new technology for both individual businesses and wider society can be fully realised.

Academic led, proposals for this call are required to have the support and active engagement of at least one industry partner from the designated industries to ensure the direct relevance of the proposed research programme to the ultimate objectives of the Challenge. UEA is currently considering how it might approach the Challenge and if you are interested in finding out more about the research calls, click here or contact Anna Douglas, Relationship Manager for Business, financial and Legal Services at UEA for an informal discussion.

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