What is Artificial Intelligence?

Everything you need to know about artificial intelligence and how it is transforming industries

Lily Ruaah,
 20 June 2024
Table of contents

For a while artificial intelligence (AI) seemed like an unbelievable sci-fi concept you’d only see in films. But now we use AI in our everyday lives – you could be using AI without even realising it.

Some of us might’ve expected this (Alan Turing certainly did) but it’s still astounding how far we’ve come in just a few short years. There are constantly new products and tools being developed — it’s hard to keep up. And we all want to be at the forefront of change.

This quarter we’ve seen the highest investment into AI that we’ve ever seen, with a huge £1.1b being invested into AI companies so far. This is up from £508m in Q1 2024, showing great promise for AI growth this year — and even more change.

We’ve put together this article to give you the rundown of all things AI and to showcase the biggest AI companies in the UK right now.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the intelligence demonstrated by machines, especially computer systems.

This is what ChatGPT said about AI:

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that focuses on creating systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, language understanding, and decision-making.”

What’s the difference between AI and machine learning?

AI and machine learning are related concepts but they are not the same.

AI is a broad field of computer science aimed at creating systems capable of performing tasks that require human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, problem-solving, perception, language understanding, and decision-making.

It encompasses a wide range of technologies and approaches, including rule-based systems, expert systems, natural language processing, robotics, and machine learning.

Machine learning, or ML, is a subset of AI. It’s focused on developing algorithms and statistical models that allow computers to learn from and make predictions or decisions based on data. While AI includes approaches that do not involve learning from data, such as rule-based systems, ML specifically involves creating models that can learn and adapt from data inputs.

How different types of AI work

AI can be used in different ways, and for different reasons. For example, you wouldn’t use ChatGPT to drive your car but you could use both ChatGPT and Siri to write your shopping list. The difference is that Siri wouldn’t be able to create a shopping list from scratch (yet), whereas ChatGPT would. Let’s take a look at the different types of AI and what they’re commonly used for.

Narrow AI (Weak AI)

Definition: AI systems designed to perform a specific task or a narrow range of tasks.

In theory, they can outperform humans in their specific domain but lack general intelligence and cannot perform tasks outside their designated functions. Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, recommendation systems like those used by Netflix and Amazon, and self-driving car technology are all great examples of Narrow AI.

General AI (Strong AI)

Definition: AI systems that possess the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across a wide range of tasks at a human level of competence.

These systems can perform any intellectual task that a human can do, with the ability to transfer learning from one domain to another. As of now, general AI remains largely theoretical and is a major goal of ongoing research. A subset of this is generative AI.

Generative AI

Definition: Generative AI refers to a category of artificial intelligence that can create new content, such as text, images, music, or other media, based on the data it has been trained on.

This type of AI has become most prominent in the past year, with the emergence of tools such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Google’s Search Generative Experience, the latter of which is being beta-tested in the US at the moment.

Superintelligent AI

Definition: AI that surpasses human intelligence across all fields, including creativity, general wisdom, and problem-solving.

These systems would be able to outperform the best human minds in every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills. This type of AI is currently hypothetical and does not yet exist.

Key benefits of artificial intelligence

In films and TV, AI is used for all sorts of things: robots that clean your house, unstoppable assassins, artificial intelligence police forces.

But what are the real-life key benefits of artificial intelligence?

As an example, AI is particularly useful for the medical industry. It can help improve the accuracy and speed of analysing medical images and detecting abnormalities. It can also predict patient outcomes and disease risks, enabling early interventions and preventive measures.

By customising treatment plans based on genetic analysis and patient history, AI can find the right therapy for patients. In robotics and surgery, AI can improve surgical precision and assists in pre-operative planning — and it streamlines administrative tasks, manages electronic health records, and organises scheduling.

Artificial intelligence market analysis

From our artificial intelligence market analysis, it’s clear that the AI industry has been growing significantly for the past decade and it shows no signs of slowing down.

As you can see from our graph above, the amount of money being invested into AI is at a record high. In Q2 of 2024, we’ve already seen £1.1b of equity funding secured by AI companies.

We can see from the data that there’s not a similar surge in the number of deals being made; in fact the number of deals appears to have dipped significantly. So we can conclude that the deals being made are bigger.

Digging deeper into the data, a large portion of the total amount raised (55.4%) is going to seed companies, with a further 33.9% going to venture stage companies — worked out by number of deals made. This shows that a large portion of these companies are startups and scaleups — and we could see more growth from these companies in the near future.

A number of these companies are emerging from the golden triangle (Oxford, Cambridge and London) as they are academic spinouts. Looking at our data, 3.6% of the companies we looked at for this article spun out from a university, and 52.2% of those companies come from the golden triangle.

Discover UK Academic Spinout Trends

In continued collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, we analyse the changes in the UK’s academic spinout landscape.

Industries AI is transforming

There are some industries in particular that AI is changing. As we mentioned before, it’s been a game-changer for the medical sector.

But AI is also transforming a wide range of industries beyond healthcare, driving innovation, efficiency, and new capabilities. Here are some key industries being revolutionised by AI:

Finance and banking
AI is enhancing fraud detection, risk management, and customer service in the finance sector. It enables predictive analytics for stock trading, automates customer support through chatbots, and improves credit scoring and loan approvals.

Retail and e-commerce
Probably one of the most evident ones is retail and e-commerce, as so many of us use online shopping platforms. AI personalises shopping experiences by analysing customer behaviour and preferences, showing you products you’re likely to want to purchase. It powers recommendation engines, optimises inventory management, and enhances customer service with virtual assistants.

AI-driven automation and predictive maintenance are transforming manufacturing processes. AI improves quality control through real-time monitoring and analysis, enhances supply chain efficiency, and enables the development of smart factories with robotics.

Transportation and logistics
AI can organise route planning and fleet management, reducing costs and improving delivery times. It enhances the development of autonomous vehicles, improves traffic management systems, and streamlines warehouse operations with robotics and automation.

AI is even changing how we learn, providing personalised learning experiences and adaptive learning platforms that cater to individual student needs. It also automates administrative tasks, offers intelligent tutoring systems, and enhances educational content through data analytics and natural language processing.

Entertainment and media
AI has been a game-changer for entertainment platforms such as YouTube and social media sites like TikTok. AI creates personalised content recommendations on these platforms and enhances content creation through tools like automated video editing and music composition. It also improves audience engagement through targeted advertising and sentiment analysis.

AI helps optimise energy consumption, and enhances the efficiency of renewable energy sources. It enables predictive maintenance for energy infrastructure, improves grid management, and supports the development of smart grids and smart home technologies.

AI-driven precision farming techniques increase crop yields and reduce waste. AI-based agritech applications include drone monitoring, soil analysis, weather prediction, and automated irrigation systems, enhancing overall farm management and productivity.

AI is driving significant advancements across various industries by enhancing efficiency, improving decision-making, personalising experiences, and automating routine tasks. Its transformative impact is reshaping how businesses operate, and is likely to make even more big changes in the future.

On our platform, you can dig into the artificial intelligence verticals to see which industries are included in this space. As you can see from our data, application software tends to be the most popular industry — but this can cover a wide range of fields.

If you want to look even further, you can add industries to your search. For example, if we add artificial intelligence, application software and fintech to our advanced search, we can now see 180 companies. From here, you can filter by latest or total fundraisings, turnover, industries and more.

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To be included in our calculations, the company must:

To find the biggest AI companies in the UK, we ranked these companies in order of most funding raised to date. But there are many different ways you can analyse this data. To see for yourself, book a demo with one of our experts.

The biggest AI companies in the UK

Below, we’ve highlighted the top AI companies in the UK by equity raised as of 12 June 2024.



Total amount raised: £216m
Location: London
Industry: Application software, Finance

Lendable has created a peer-to-peer lending platform for consumer finance, leveraging AI and automated underwriting to quickly approve loans.

This company has hit an outstanding five of our Growth Signals, including attending the AG Elevate accelerator in 2018-2019. It has also featured on five high-growth lists, the most recent being the FT 1000 in 2022. Its most recent investment, also in 2022, was for £210m (its most significant investment by far), from the Teachers’ Venture Growth (TVG) and other undisclosed investors.



Total amount raised: £240m
Location: London
Industry: Application software, Medtech

Huma (formerly Medopad) develops technology enabling hospitals to manage health records and clinicians to monitor and share patient data via mobile devices. Its product supports integrations with third-party apps such as Google.

The company has raised a total of £240m through 11 fundraisings. Most recently, it received £3.7m just earlier this year, in March. It’s attended four accelerator events, and featured on eight high-growth lists. Huma has also been granted a patent. It hit our Social & Governance Signal for having an age diversity among its directors.



Total amount raised: £253m
Location: London
Industry: Data provision and analysis, Pharmaceuticals

BenevolentAI creates artificial intelligence and machine learning technology designed to accelerate scientific discovery by analysing large volumes of scientific data.

The company has hit five our Growth Signals, including attending an accelerator, the Future Fifty. It’s also featured on eight high-growth lists, including the London Tech 50 twice, and the Pharma Times: Alantra Pharma Fast 50 twice. It has raised a total of £253m over six funding rounds, and was acquired by Odyssey Acquisition in 2022.



Total amount raised: £286m
Location: London
Industry: Application software, Data provision and analysis

Quantexa has produced a decision intelligence platform powered by big data and artificial intelligence.

It’s hit an impressive six out of seven of our Growth Signals. It attended Microsoft for Startups and the Future Fifty accelerator programmes, and since 2017 has appeared on 12 high-growth lists, and has raised a huge £286m from six funding rounds. In its most recent funding, it secured £104m from nine investors.



Total amount raised: £300m
Location: Tayside
Industry: Clinical research

Exscientia uses artificial intelligence to design millions of potential small molecule drugs. It then predicts their potency and effects, providing indications of which molecules are most likely to make successful drugs.

Exscientia is a spinout from the University of Dundee, and was incorporated in 2012. Since then, it has raised £300m across seven fundraisings, and received three grants. It has featured on five high-growth lists including the The King’s Awards for Innovation in 2021.

It exited through an IPO in 2021, and was listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market.



Total amount raised: £366m
Location: Essex
Industry: Application software, Medtech

Cera offers homecare, telehealth consultations, and prescription services, all manageable through a mobile app that also enables users to book on-demand appointments with nurses.

This healthcare app started out in Essex, and has raised a massive £366m over nine funding rounds. It hit all but one of our Growth Signals, including featuring on 13 high-growth lists and attending three accelerator events: DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, PwC Scale Programmes, and Govstart. It also hit our Social & Governance Signal for having an age diversity among its directors.


Thought Machine

Total amount raised: £398m
Location: London
Industry: Application software, Banking

Thought Machine has created a cloud-based banking platform that allows banks to centrally manage various financial systems and products.

Since its establishment in 2015, the company has raised £398m in funding. Its most recent funding round was for £128m in 2022, and came from eight different investors. It attended the Mayor’s International Business Programme, and has featured on seven high-growth lists, most recently on the BusinessCloud FinTech 50 just last year.



Total amount raised: £528m
Location: Bristol
Industry: Chips and processors

Graphcore develops Intelligence Processing Unit technology for machine learning applications both in servers and in the cloud.

Graphcore is a spinout from the University of Bristol, and since its inception in 2016, it has attended three accelerator programmes. It has raised a total of £528m from eight funding rounds, and appeared on three high-growth lists. It also hit our Innovation Signal for having a patent.



Total amount raised: £699m
Location: London
Industry: Application software, Security and surveillance

OneTrust has created software designed to help users manage their security, privacy and third-party risk.

This security company has raised a huge £699m, placing it second on our list. This was through four rounds of funding, the most recent for £153m in 2021. It’s also featured on three high-growth lists: the Deloitte Fast 50 and the RegTech 100 twice. OneTrust has also acquired three companies: Planetly, DataGuidance and Optanon.

The company moved abroad in 2023, and now has its sole headquarters in the USA.



Total amount raised: £1.01b
Location: London
Industry: Cars, motorcycles and other road vehicles

Wayve stands out as a glimpse into the future. It develops software for self-driving cars, using machine learning technology. Recently, Wayve received £840m in investment from funds including Microsoft, Nvidia, and SoftBank.

This exciting, futuristic company comes in at number one on our list, having raised £1.01b since its inception in 2017. It has secured six rounds of funding, received three grants, and also hit our Innovation Signal for having received an R&D grant. It attended the Shott Scale Up Accelerator, and has featured on the BusinessCloud TransportTech 50 high-growth list twice.

Read also the Artificial Intelligence Top 50 Companies

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How to find emerging AI companies in the UK

Using the Beauhurst platform, you can find insights into emerging companies and industries.

There are several different ways you can do this. If you want to find out more on AI as a whole, you can do this from the Explore section of the Beauhurst platform. Here you can search by industry (or by location).

For example, using the Beauhurst buzzword ‘artificial intelligence’, you can see:

To find emerging AI companies, you can perform a simple advanced search check.

If you want to see early-stage or emerging companies, there are a number of ways you can narrow down your search. In this example, we’ve narrowed our search to look at companies with nine or fewer employees. But you could also search for companies founded in the past couple of years, or that have raised under a certain amount of funding.

You can also add multiple criteria. In this instance, we’ve added that the company needs to have received funding in the past six months — so, you can see companies that are currently receiving funding.

If you want to find out more about the Beauhurst platform, and how you can access AI company data, book a demo with one of our experts.

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