US and China lead new index on AI development, the Cambrian AI Index

Robots produced by Beijing Kangli Youlan Robot Technology at the CES Asia trade technology show in Shanghai last week. According to the Cambrian AI Index report, China lags behind the US in basic research, training of qualified specialists, the numbe
Robots produced by Beijing Kangli Youlan Robot Technology at the CES Asia trade technology show in Shanghai last week. According to the Cambrian AI Index report, China lags behind the US in basic research, training of qualified specialists, the number of AI start-ups and internationally enforced patents.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The United States, followed by China, is the clear world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) development, according to a new index.

The Cambrian AI Index, which measures countries' AI readiness, compared the strategies and development environments of 13 countries with national AI strategies.

Singapore, with a score of 0.18, came in 12th, a spot above the United Arab Emirates in the list that includes Japan, South Korea, India and Israel.

Researchers assessed countries on indicators that incorporate the countries' preconditions, research and development, and the degree of commercialisation of AI. They assigned the US with a benchmark value of one, against which the others are measured.

China scored 0.62, while Japan came in third with a score of 0.3.

"The US still leads across most factors for AI research and development deployment, but China is poised to close that gap in the coming years if it can avoid a global backlash," said Dr Olaf Groth, managing partner of the Cambrian Group, a US-based consulting firm.

"However, this index reveals unexpected strengths in other countries, such as South Korea, and it shows key European countries mired mid-field at best," added Dr Groth, who is the co-author of the report.

Cambrian was commissioned by German think-tank Konrad Adenauer Foundation to analyse the national strategies, research and development, and commercial deployment of artificial intelligence.

The report noted that the US maintains global leadership in AI as it has a well-established cooperation structure between the government, private sector and universities, where the state's funding is focused on basic research, and the private sector concentrates on application research.

  • The Cambrian A1 Index

  • United States: 1 

    China: 0.62

    Japan: 0.3 

    United Kingdom: 0.27 

    South Korea: 0.25 

    Germany: 0.25 

    Canada: 0.23 

    India: 0.23 

    Israel: 0.23 

    France: 0.22

    Finland: 0.19 

    Singapore: 0.18 

    United Arab Emirates: 0.11

    SOURCE: CAMBRIAN GROUP; KONRAD ADENAUER FOUNDATION

China, on the other hand, still lags behind the US in basic research, training of qualified specialists, the number of AI start-ups and internationally enforced patents.

Dr Groth told The Straits Times: "We believe China can catch up with the US reasonably quickly, maybe in five to seven years, due to its fast, coordinated policy approach and lack of Western-style privacy concerns."

But he added: "While China's domestic consumer data volume is bigger than that of the US, it needs to build a much larger international pool to catch up with US Internet firms that lead globally."

He said a lot of that goes beyond investing, obtaining licences or building technology, but also involves whether consumers and their governments trust China, and whether China can earn global respect.

Dr Groth noted that significant differences between leading nations, both in attitudes towards these issues and in their approach to solving them, have started opening deeper divisions in how to regulate and govern the development and deployment of AI around the world.

"Governments, companies and individuals need to begin taking an active role in shaping not only domestic regulation, but global frameworks for AI as well," he said.

He added that in the next phase, Cambrian may look at adding Russia, Poland, Italy, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Australia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and possibly one to two Latin American countries, to the index.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2019, with the headline 'US and China lead new index on AI development The Cambrian AI Index'. Print Edition | Subscribe