By Dr Richard Wilson
They have done it before.
Until 2007, the UK was the third largest developer of video games in the world in terms of revenue generated. But in 2008, Canada surpassed the UK on this measurement and since then has established a lead over the UK in terms of employment in the sector.
Canada has pursued a highly successful industrial strategy to grow its video games industry. The Canadian video games industry has grown from 155 studios employing 10,500 developers in 2008 to 329 companies employing 16,500 developers in 2014. This growth has primarily been driven by the provision of generous tax reliefs, which has given Canadian studios a significant competitive advantage.
The UK has since redressed the balance. TIGA, the trade association representing the video games industry, successfully campaigned for the introduction of a Video Games Tax Relief in the UK. Games developers in the UK can now compete on a more level playing field. However, while the UK games industry grew to 12,000 highly skilled development staff in 2016, the Canadian industry now employs over 20,000 people, thanks to the country’s early adoption of generous tax incentives.
Canada is now turning its attention to Artificial Intelligence (AI). This week, the Canadian government announced that it plans to invest $125 million into a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The funding will go into research and education with the objective of making Canada the world leader in AI (see http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/canada-launches-multi-million-artificial-intelligence-strategy/article/488855#.WNp0DiEs1yg.twitter)
The UK should be a natural leader in AI and indeed in robotics. We have a world class higher education system, we have the second largest share of the overseas student market and we provide the third most favourable environment in the world for start-ups, according to the OECD. Already, many AI businesses are located in the UK, including Google’s Deep Mind and Spirit AI. If we are to make the UK the world leader in AI then we must invest in research, we must invest in PhD students, we must attract overseas talent, we must provide generous R&D Tax Relief, and we must make the UK the best place in the world for start-ups.
In short, we should take a leaf from Canada.