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Experts upbeat on China-UK AI ties

By Cecily Liu in London | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-26 08:21

When Shenzhen-based robot maker Zige got its cute creation Mento to perform on the catwalk at this year's London Fashion Show, it attracted tremendous curiosity and interest from London's fashionistas.

Yet, behind the fun initiative is an emerging trend of China-United Kingdom cooperation in the fast-growing sector of artificial intelligence. And, although such ties are still in their early days, analysts expect to see tremendous growth based upon the complimentary 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 in the AI field, 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 brought together 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 witnessed live demonstration of robotics technology.

Research is a key part of bilateral AI cooperation. 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 finished product is already being prototyped, and will be mass-produced and launched soon.

"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 an important market. Zige, which plans to formally launch Mento in China in November, also plans to 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 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 development guideline that aims to grow its core AI industries to a value of more than 150 billion yuan ($22.15 billion) by 2020 and 400 billion by 2025.

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