York and North Yorkshire Businesses Take First Steps in AI

Charlie Lavemai-Goldsbrough speaking at First Steps In AI event

Business leaders gathered at York Guildhall for a sold-out event to take their first steps in AI. Expert speakers introduced the the fast-moving world of AI and machine learning. Local entrepreneurs were inspired to take their businesses to the next level.

The medieval Guildhall provided a fitting backdrop as Fractional CMO and Open Velocity founder Bethan Vincent likened the advent of machine learning to the printing press. Bethan showcased the potential of AI to transform the way we communicate ideas.

Looking beyond the hype of AI, Bethan encouraged businesses to see it as a valuable tool for content creation. Uses include automating the more mundane processes such as proofreading and generating copy for multiple platforms. This in turn can free up time for originality and creativity.

However, there was a note of caution against moving to entirely AI-generated marketing. Consumers prefer content that feels authentic and can easily spot computer-generated text or images.

The opportunity of AI

Charlie Lavemai-Goldsbrough, Policy and Representation Executive at the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, co-hosted the event.

Speaking after the event, Charlie reflected: “AI presents an immense opportunity for York and North Yorkshire, given the innovation that’s already happening in the region. There are so many different digital and tech businesses deciding to base themselves here. With some of the investment that’s coming in, it provides us with an opportunity to grow our economy across both the rural and urban areas of our region.”

Charlie co-hosted alongside Mike Pennington, the York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub’s Business Relationship Manager for Made Smarter. Made Smarter delivers free expert advice and funding to help grow manufacturing business through digitisation. The next round funding is available from 1st April 2024.

Mike Pennington added: “There’s lots of support out there at the moment for businesses interested in AI. This includes Innovate UK, our world class universities and of course Made Smarter. Contact the Growth Hub to find out more.”

AI in the real world

The event’s focus was on bridging the gap between cutting-edge research innovation and business needs, with several speakers showcasing real-world uses of AI.

The speakers included Sherin Mathew and Kevin Allan from AI Tech UK. They discussed the ethical implications of the ‘AI Gold Rush’. In their experience, many businesses rush to adapt quickly to AI to maintain competitive advantage in a fast-moving market. Other businesses stay away, reluctant to invest the time and effort needed to get the best out of AI technologies.

Elliot Fearn of Northallerton-based Data Stream UK warned that AI systems are a case of ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’. He argued that the time to make sure that data processes are up to scratch more than pays off when using AI to gain insights.

Professor Dan Franks, from tech firm Causa, introduced the concept of Causal AI. Causal AI is machine learning which can accurately forecast future trends by understanding the nuances behind causation. This is unlike standard AI software, which can fall into the trap of confusing correlation with causation.

Finally, Harrogate-based Jonathan Rayfield of DNA Consulting highlighted how AI systems are being put to use in agriculture. By measuring soil conditions, farmers are able to maximise healthy crop yields.

This event was sponsored by Made Smarter. The event was hosted by York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority in partnership with:

  • City of York Council
  • North Yorkshire Council
  • York & North Yorkshire Growth HUb
  • West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce
  • University of York
  • York St John University

To explore how you can take your first steps in AI, get in touch with the Growth Hub team. Stay up to date with events and opportunities by filling out the form below.