Investment in UK AI startups reached $1.3bn in 2018, almost as much as the rest of Europe combined.

Venture capital investment into the UK’s fast-growing AI sector leapt almost six fold from 2014 to 2018, according to new figures prepared for Tech Nation and the Digital Economy Council.

The figures, prepared by business intelligence company Dealroom.co, show AI investment leapt between 2016 and 2017, with UK AI venture capital funding almost doubling from $0.7bn to $1.2bn.

Bristol startup Graphcore raised $200m, medical AI start-up Renalytix raised $29m through an AIM flotation, and healthtech company Medopad raised $26m and HR software Beamery raised $28m.

Graphcore is one of five UK five AI ‘unicorns’ amongst the total number of private tech companies with a valuation of $1bn.

Darktrace has a $1.7bn valuation, Benevolent AI has a $2.1bn valuation, Improbable $2bn and Blue Prism $1.3bn.

The news comes as the government announces a range of initiatives to further boost productivity and create high skilled jobs in the emerging sector.

A new industry-government AI Masters and 16 dedicated centres at universities across the country will train the next generation of AI PhDs.

The Alan Turing Institute AI research fellowships has also been opened, a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI Masters courses coupled with work-based placements.

“The UK has long been a nation of innovators. This AI skills and talent investment will help nurture leading UK and international talent to ensure we retain our world-beating reputation in research and development,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.

“Artificial intelligence has great potential to drive up productivity and enhance every industry throughout our economy, from more effective disease diagnosis to building smart homes.

“Today’s announcement is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, investing in skills and talent to drive high skilled jobs, growth and productivity across the UK.”