London might be tussling with Uber over its taxi license and grappling with Brexit, but it wants you to know that it’s still a major hub for artificial intelligence. On Monday the city’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, promoted a survey he’d commissioned that suggested London was the ‘capital’ of AI for Europe.

SwissCognitive“London has twice as many AI companies as Paris and Berlin combined,” Khan said on the sidelines of the launch of London Tech Week, a collection of 200 tech events across the city that also kicked off on Monday.

Khan denied his transport office was smothering innovation by moving to take away Uber’s taxi license last year. “We’re not saying ‘no’ to innovation, but ‘no’ to rule-breaking,” he said.

Khan’s AI report was pulled together by CognitionX, a London-based AI advice service. The report found that investment into “AI companies” in London had exceeded £200 million in 2017, a year-on-year increase of more than 50%.

That represented about 10% of the £2.45 billion ($3.3 billion) raised by London tech firms last year. The most popular sectors for AI companies in London were finance, insurance and law.

The numbers are impressive but should be taken with a pinch of salt as CognitionX maintained a broad definition of an AI company, or “AI supplier.” It identified 758 such companies in London, 645 of which had headquarters in the capital. Each company was included because it sold “at least one AI product.”

As such the the report included companies that you might not normally associate with AI, including Starship Technologies and Babylon Health — the first makes self-driving delivery robots and the other is a telemedicine service that includes an automated symptom checker.

The report was also generous in including companies that carried out AI-research, but didn’t sell any AI-related products or services, and companies whose AI-related product was on the “borderline” of the definition of AI.

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Large businesses are increasingly being encouraged to incorporate AI into their services, and it’s becoming easier to do so thanks to off-the-shelf machine-learning tools they can license from cloud providers like Google Cloud (TensorFlow) or Amazon Web Services (Sage Maker and DeepLens).

The big AI showcase may be down to under pressure on Khan to show that London is very much open for business and cutting-edge technology, despite the central government’s dithering over a Brexit deal with the European Union.

“London’s unique global status as a capital of finance, business, government and technology is our standout asset,” he said, adding that this wasn’t going to change even after Brexit. […]