Future looks promising for AI collaboration with UK

By CECILY LIU | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-09-25 17:26

Future looks promising for AI collaboration with UK

Children interact with Mento. [Photo/China Daily]

When Shenzhen-based robot maker Zige got its cute creation Mento to perform on the catwalk at this year's London Fashion Week, it attracted lots of interest.

Yet, behind the fun initiative is an emerging trend of China-United Kingdom collaboration in artificial intelligence. And, while it is still in its early days, analysts expect to see tremendous growth because of the complementary nature of the two countries' AI industries.

"China and the UK are natural partners to advance the AI sector," said Dai Jian, chairman of mechanisms and robotics at King's College London. "The UK leads on creativity and cutting-edge niche-sector technology ... and China's AI sector enjoys huge market access, available financing, and great commercializing capability."

Dai was speaking at the first China-Britain AI Summit in London on Friday, which attracted around 100 Chinese and British representatives from tech companies, consultancies and regulators.

Organized by the London-based consultancy China-Britain Business Fusion, delegates considered topics including bilateral investment and technology collaboration and saw live demonstrations of robotics technology.

Research is a key part of bilateral AI collaboration. Shenzhen-based drive-system maker Best Motion (formerly Nowforever Technology) established a 1.2 million pound ($1.62 million) research and development center at the University of Nottingham in 2014 to develop high-quality servo drive systems. The product is being prototyped, and will soon be mass-produced and launched.

"The servo drive system is a crucial component for AI robotics technology, but Chinese AI companies have relied on imported servo drive systems. The collaboration between Best Motion and the University of Nottingham has created a high-quality cost-efficient product," said Zhang He, who heads the R&D center in Nottingham.

Chinese AI companies also see the UK as a strategically important market. Zige, which plans to formally launch Mento in China in November, also will launch it in the UK in 2018. Mento was developed to teach language and general knowledge to children aged 4-12.

Jerry Huang, CEO of Zige, said his team is looking for UK universities and education consultancies to become partners in helping his team improve Mento's performance and to localize the product for the UK.

"Although China's domestic market is already huge, we eyed global growth from day one. Being able to succeed in the UK's mature market motivates us to set the bar high, and creates a strong base for our further international expansion," Huang said.

Earlier this year China's State Council unveiled a national AI guideline to grow the sector to a value of more than 150 billion yuan ($22.15 billion) by 2020.

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