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China-UK AI collaboration sees bright future

Around twenty miles outside the center of London on an unassuming industrial estate, one of the UK and Europe’s biggest robot suppliers is busy packing robots and robot parts. It's a bustling and slightly chaotic workplace for a small but growing team. 

CGTN Photo

Robots of London supplies various robots, which are sourced from China, Japan, and Russia among other places. The company was founded just two years ago by Adam Kushner, who told CGTN that he realized following a business trip to Japan, “that it was something that in the future, at some point, people would want.”

Having seen much of the competition, the supplier this year also decided to work on its own robot. Alfie, a somewhat life-like looking face on a robotic human body, is a work in progress, but it is hoped that one day he could compete with the robots being imported from Asia and beyond.

Robot parts lying around the Robots of London office. /CGTN Photo

Kushner anticipates a 400-percent increase in growth over the next few years and says he takes calls daily from robot manufacturers in China, wanting to do business. But China is not only interested in the UK as a marketplace for its robots. It keeps a close eye on promising new artificial intelligence (AI) startups in the UK, as Beijing plans to become the world leader in AI by 2030. It’s estimated that a new AI start-up has been launched in the UK every week for the past three years. For British companies, close collaborations with Chinese partners offer opportunities to gain market access and financial backing.

Illumr is an AI startup that has created a unique data analysis platform which can turn large data sets into three-dimensional patterns. The idea is that humans and AI can work together to identify never seen before patterns that will reveal new insights. Illumr has already benefited from an accelerator program part-funded by China’s third-largest private equity firm, CSC group, which aims to fuse UK technology with the Chinese market.

Robots of London staff working on Alfie. /CGTN Photo

Illumr founder Jason Lee estimates it will be around a year before the company is ready to scale up, however, he said he’s delighted to have already been in contact with the CSC group, who has promised to introduce him to big Chinese corporations. 

“When we’re ready we’ve got already established links… it’s such a difficult market to enter, but when you’ve got that help at a senior level, it should be really good for us,” Lee told CGTN.

Adam Kushner, co-founder of Robots of London, examines a singing robot. /CGTN Photo

China-Britain Business Fusion (CBBF) is a London-based consultancy group dedicated to bringing the China-UK AI sector together with a summit in China planned for 2018, following a successful event in London. 

"The future is very bright for the UK and China to collaborate. China has got a huge budget and that budgets mean that they can spend money into acquiring technology around the world but that technology is driven by the talents and that is what the UK can offer,” said Syrus Lohrasb, the founder of CBBF.

A view of the data analysis 3D pattern, an example of the work of Illumr. /CGTN Photo