Edinburgh named UK’s most AI-ready city in new study 

Edinburgh has pipped Cambridge and Oxford to be crowned the UK’s most AI-ready city, new research has revealed.

Scotland’s capital scored highest outside London in the SAS AI Cities Index 2023, which reveals the cities that are most likely to benefit from a growing commercial appetite for artificial intelligence (AI).

The research is compiled from seven criteria, including AI-related job ads, the number of AI companies in the city, the number of tech meet-ups and the value of InnovateUK funding granted in each area.

Edinburgh was home to the highest number of courses that feature an AI element, after SAS combed through every course offered in UK universities to understand how AI is used in tech-based and non tech-based degrees.

Universities in Edinburgh are also making waves in AI. InnovateUK has awarded multiple grants worth millions of pounds to research projects at the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier.

Popular tech hubs Cambridge and Oxford came in second and third due to their landscape for AI career opportunities, institutions based in the city and high life satisfaction, too.

The analysis also revealed which parts of the UK have seen the biggest growth in AI-readiness since the 2022 index was published last year. Newry, in Northern Ireland, came last in 2022, but has since risen from 74 to 25, a huge jump of 49 places.

Leicester has also jumped from position 50 in 2022 to 13 in 2023, nearing the top 10. Inverness, Norwich and Wells all also made huge gains, a sign that the cities and their councils have implemented a number of actions to overhaul their AI-ready efforts.

However, the study has also shown which parts of the UK seem least prepared to utilise AI to its full potential - bottom of the list was Chichester, followed by Bangor and Dundee.

The study also compared the AI-readiness of all London boroughs, revealing that Hillingdon, home to Heathrow Airport, came first, beating the usual suspects of Camden and Westminster. Kensington and Chelsea came last. 

Glyn Townsend, Senior Director of Education Services at SAS EMEA said:

“The UK has a goal to become a science and technology superpower by 2030. But as the industry grows at pace and generates thousands of jobs, who fills them when we’re in the midst of the digital skills gap? TechUK has reported that over half of UK firms identify accessing talent as their biggest challenge over the next 12 months.

“More and more careers require an element of data literacy, and so educators need to be well-versed in teaching people how to incorporate this into their subject areas along with, where necessary, data analytics and AI elements.

“All cities - not just those that are the largest or most populated - need to be able to build, test and implement AI technologies. They need to create an ecosystem between institutions, research and commercial applications to develop and deploy future technology.

“While some cities have made huge gains since last year, our research still highlights large discrepancies between the most and least-prepared areas. Beyond just the digital and data literacy that some cities lack, there needs to be investment in regional AI Centres of Excellence and Incubation Hubs for new and emerging technology to fuel the future economy.”

The full report can be found here.


To find out which are leading the way in AI-readiness in the UK, and which are lagging behind, SAS looked at seven key indicators:

  • The value of InnovateUK projects in each area between 2022 and 2025.
  • The number of AI companies in the city.
  • The number of AI-related jobs currently advertised.
  • The number of MeetUp AI-related events in each city.
  • The average life satisfaction of residents in each city.
  • The number of university courses which feature AI as part of the module.
  • The number of international flights within a 90-minute drive of the city, per day.

SAS gave every city and borough an index score for each separate data point, adding up each score over the data points to calculate an overall score out of 700.

Edinburgh named UK’s most AI-ready city in new study

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