UK announces £1m Manchester Prize for ground-breaking AI research in bid to boost sector

Annual award part of initiatives in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's budget to encourage innovation in emerging technology

A 2020 quantum computer model in the Future Museum in Munich. The UK is putting £2.5 billion into research in the field. Getty
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UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced an “AI sandbox” aimed at providing support for artificial intelligence companies and a “quantum strategy” to support cutting-edge computing in the country.

The AI sandbox will allow innovators to trial new, faster approaches to help bring products to market, said Mr Hunt, who unveiled his spring budget on Wednesday.

He also pledged around £900 million ($1.085 billion) of funding to implement the recommendations in the independent Future of Compute Review for an Exascale supercomputer.

Exascale is a measure of supercomputer performance.

The Chancellor also unveiled a £2.5 billion investment in quantum computing over 10 years, in an effort to ensure the country remains competitive in the fast-moving field.

This will more than double funding available to researchers in industry and universities under the existing National Quantum Technologies Programme, which seeks to translate academic work into new products and services.

Mr Hunt said the power needed to run AI's complex algorithms could also be provided by quantum computing.

“Today, we publish a quantum strategy which will set our vision to be a world-leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033 with a research and innovation programme totalling £2.5 billion,” said Mr Hunt

In addition, £1 million prize — called the Manchester Prize — will be awarded every year for the next decade for the most ground-breaking AI research in the UK, said the Chancellor.

It is named after the University of Manchester's invention of the first stored programme computer in 1948, said officials.

The Chancellor said he was accepting all nine recommendations in a review by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, into Britain’s cutting-edge industrial sectors.

“We must now build on our strengths in innovation and work together to ensure the UK is at the forefront of these new and emerging technologies,” said Mr Hunt.

The quantum investment is part of a wider £22bn spending commitment announced in the budget, which included £1.6bn for a new Advanced Research and Invention Agency.

Mr Hunt hopes the investment will make the UK a world leader in technological development.

Updated: March 15, 2023, 3:04 PM