China and the US have the world’s most successful AI hubs

by Max Smolaks 14 January 2020

San Francisco, New York, Beijing and Shanghai are currently battling it out for the status of the world’s top artificial intelligence hub, according to a study by Accuracy, the global independent advisory firm.

The analysts developed a six-factor ranking system to assess locations in terms of their AI ecosystem, with the leaders split equally between China and the US.

Tier 2 locations included London, Paris, Berlin, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangalore, Singapore, Toronto and Montreal.

The hubs

To come up with this list, Accuracy Looked at availability of talent, access to data and computing infrastructure, startup ecosystem, proximity to other technology companies, availability of capital and government support for AI.

The firm said Silicon Valley was in the lead due to an established focus on emerging tech and world-class universities. Accuracy estimated that the region has historically received 40 percent of capital invested in AI companies.

In terms of government support, companies in the Bay Area benefit from the AI Roadmap for California, a recent report that recognized the economic and societal benefits of AI and proposed a range of initiatives to encourage adoption in the public sector.

“The Bay Area has historically benefited from an ecosystem comprising universities, start-ups, tech companies and venture capitalists. Some of the largest corporate players have had the expertise, capital and data to push AI forward. The result is a global powerhouse in AI development,” said Roman Celac, analyst at Accuracy and one of the research authors.

However, he also warned that “Chinese AI capabilities may soon match US capabilities in some areas of AI.”

China has recently overtaken the US in AI patent rankings, with 19 of the world’s top 50 AI patent filers hailing from China, and just 12 from the US, according to Nikkei. However, the top three spots remain held by American corporations IBM, Microsoft and Google.

“The US’s head start means it is set to maintain a lead in business AI, due to its expertise and existing data, while China will take the lead in consumer AI due to its capabilities in emerging forms of AI such as deep learning and the availability of data from individuals by both private and/or governmental companies,” Celac said.

The superpowers

AI has emerged as a key technological battleground in the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

In 2017, China released the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” that outlined the ambition to make the country the world leader in AI by 2030.

In February 2019, as the trade war intensified, the US replied by announcing the American AI Initiative designed to ensure “continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence” – although it didn’t outline any specific funding.

And in October 2019, major Chinese AI companies Megvii, Yitu, Hikvision, iFlytek, and SenseTime – the world’s most valuable AI startup – ended up on a list of 28 organizations deemed to be involved in activities “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States” by the Department of Commerce. This effectively barred them from importing American technology products and components.