Artificial intelligence

China’s AI dreams stymied by shortage of talent, with the US home to lion’s share of experts

Not only does the US lead in AI academic research, it has almost twice as many AI start-ups than China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 6:07pm

China is suffering from a serious shortage of qualified people to staff its ambitions to become a leader in artificial intelligence, part of a global mismatch as countries employ advanced computing sciences to drive the next stage of growth, according to a report released Friday.

There is a global AI talent pool of about 300,000 people, while the actual needs by industry number in the millions, according to a 73-page report released by Tencent Research Institute. Competition for the top tier of talent is the most intense, as there are fewer than 1,000 people who are considered capable of steering the direction of AI research and development, according to the report.

The US leads other countries in both the quantity and quality of AI personnel, and China won’t be able to immediately solve the talent shortage despite elevating AI to a national priority, Tencent said in the report co-authored with Beijing-based recruitment portal

About one-third of the available AI talent pool is spread across 367 colleges or universities around the world, with the US accounting for about 46 per cent of those. However, China only has 20 universities doing AI research and these also have weaker academic study capability as they developed much later than US, according to the study.

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Not only does the US lead in AI academic research but it also has the most AI start-ups globally, accounting for 41 per cent compared with China’s share of 22.6 per cent.

The large tech companies in both countries, including Google and Facebook in the US and Tencent and Baidu in China, have invested billions of dollars into research and development to develop AI technologies.

China aims to outspend the world in artificial intelligence

Dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, technology related to artificial intelligence is expected to boost global economic output by a further 14 per cent by 2030 – the equivalent of an additional US$15.7 trillion – and China, as the world’s second largest economy, will see an estimated 26 per cent boost to its economy by that time, PwC said in a report in June.

China’s State Council, or cabinet, laid out goals in July to build a domestic AI industry worth almost US$150 billion in the next few years and to make the country an innovation centre for the technology by 2030.