Victorian MLAI Ecosystem Survey

Jan 23, 2018   •   Susie Sheldrick



What is the current state of Victoria’s MLAI ecostyem? And are we ready for the future?

Photo @seraph709


AI is the word of the moment. Across the globe organisations and governments are investing significantly into AI. The reactions are divided. For every person excitedly anticipating a future of leisure, connectivity and information there is another with the fear that robots will take over.

Nevertheless, the AI revolution has begun, but what does this mean for our state? How healthy is our ecosystem currently and what are its future capabilities?

The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources wanted to know just that. To get a good understanding of the community they reached out to Silverpond to assist in surveying the community.

The results for the survey can be found here. Additionally, given our involvement with the survey, we have been thinking about this considerably, and thus have decided to share our thoughts in this post.

Photo @yourummayz.1


Generally, we found the following results to be indicative of a healthy early stage ecosystem. At grass roots we have individuals with a broad range of interests, highly qualified and dedicated to this branch of technology. These individuals are employed in organisations from local startups, to large multinational companies and universities. We also have industries that are prime candidates for applying AI in order to improve their processes.

  • A broad range of industries utilising AI
  • A broad range of skills sets indicated by disciplines studies at tertiary level.
  • Mature usage of the technology across different organisation sizes

The results indicate a healthy adoption of AI technology with a good representation of responders across different types of organisations. Further to this, a number of responders have indicated their companies are working with mature AI applications.

Industry

First up, and rather topically is that we have the need to develop our AI capabilities in our major industries. Health, finance, transport and naturally, IT are just a tiny example of the industries that will need to develop AI capabilities in order to remain competitive both locally and globally.

Companies

The survey had a good representation of organisations of all sizes and the type of AI people working in those organisations. A healthy industry is one where everyone is developing their capabilities. Furthermore, these organisations are working with come mature applications of AI, with the majority of respondents indicating their organisations are have at least created proof of concepts or prototypes, if not running these models in production.

These results have mirrored our working experience at Silverpond. Large companies are keen to develop and implement AI capabilities in-house while Victorian based startups are pursuing opportunities by developing applications in industries such as healthcare, finance, security, construction and media.

The Talent

The demographics of the ecosystem are predominantly male and generally younger. The male to female skew at 88:11 significantly worse than ITC and professional services. On a side note, we are well aware of the gender diversity issue, and are organising a series of Deep Learning Workshops exclusively for women. We are looking for partners and sponsors so please reach out if you would like to get involved.

The responders represent a number of disciplines through their studies. Naturally IT, engineering and Mathematics were heavily represented. However people with a arts and business backgrounds were also represented, with a special note to the number of MBA’s in the ecosystem- something that we believe will help the ecosystem grow broadly and with a focus on economic sustainability. The highly qualified and academic nature of many projects is also promising for our universities and their capacity supplying the industry with competent graduates

The Future

61% of respondents were optimistic about Victoria’s position to develop significant capability in AI (For the record we are optimistic as well!). While Victoria has a good foundation in our local talent and skills, the following suggestions were made to develop and foster those capabilities further:

Final Thoughts

The survey supports what we have long believed, that Victoria has an incredible foundations for an AI ecosystem. The homegrown capabilities are exceptional, with a multi-disciplinary and diverse culture allowing for solutions to be developed across a wide range of problems. In addition our main industries are primed for AI adoption. Consequently we, as Victorians, will need to embrace if they are to remain competitive.

The coming years is where Victoria will need to distinguish ourselves if we are to establish our foothold on the global stage. We are heartened by the the Victorian department of Economic Developments, Jobs, Transport and Resources’s initiative to learn more about our local industry. The next step is for adequate government support to be funneled into the ecosystem through initiative such as a AI hub’s, incubators, accelerators, and well thought out policy, regulations and education programs.

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