The UK has launched its first National Artificial Intelligence Strategy with the aim of “strengthening the country’s position as a global science superpower and seizing the potential to improve people’s lives and solve global challenges such as climate change and public health”.
Coming just days after ministers outlined plans to shake up data protection, it is claimed the UK’s first AI strategy marks a step change in the country’s approach to the fastest growing emerging technology in the world.
There are plans to launch a new national programme to support research and development, publish a white paper on the governance and regulation of AI to build confidence in its use, plus moves to support organisations in every region and sector capitalise on the power of AI technologies.
The UK is already ranked third in the world for private venture capital investment into AI companies (2019 investment into the UK reached almost £2.5bn) and home to a third of Europe’s total AI companies.
Alongside measures to develop the next generation of AI talent through continued support for postgraduate learning, retraining and making sure children from wide backgrounds can access specialist courses, the strategy aims to position the UK as a global leader in raising the standards around the use of the technology while building the case for deeper investor confidence.
It includes plans to launch a National AI Research & Innovation Programme to improve coordination and collaboration between the country’s researchers and help transform the UK’s AI capabilities, while boosting business and public sector adoption of AI technologies and their ability to take them to market.
The Government also claims the strategy will support its levelling up agenda by launching a joint Office for AI (OAI) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) programme aimed at continuing to develop AI in sectors based outside of London and the South East.
This would focus on the commercialisation of ideas and could see, for example, the Government focusing investment, researchers and developers to work in areas which currently do not use much AI technology but have great potential, such as energy and farming.
In addition, a joint review will be published with UKRI into the availability and capacity of computing power for UK researchers and organisations, including the physical hardware needed to drive a major roll out in AI technologies.
The review will also consider wider needs for the commercialisation and deployment of AI, including its environmental impacts.
Finally, the Government will launch a consultation on copyright and patents for AI through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to make sure the UK is capitalising on the ideas it generates and that there is clarity in what and who determines copyright.
This could include, for example, in situations where a creator was a machine rather than a human or if an algorithm used someone else’s patent.
The strategy will also see trials of an AI Standards Hub to coordinate UK engagement in setting the rules globally, and working with The Alan Turing Institute to update guidance on AI ethics and safety in the public sector and create practical tools to make sure the technology is used ethically.
DCMS minister Chris Philp said: “Artificial intelligence technologies generate billions for the economy and improve our lives. They power the technology we use on a daily basis and help save lives through better disease diagnosis and drug discovery.
“The UK already punches above its weight internationally and we are ranked third in the world behind the USA and China in the list of top countries for AI.
“Today we’re laying the foundations for the next ten years’ growth with a strategy to help us seize the potential of artificial intelligence and play a leading role in shaping the way the world governs it.”
Interim chair of the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation Edwina Dunn added: “AI has the potential to transform our society and economy. It can be harnessed to fuel business creation, transform public services, and make scientific breakthroughs.
“This depends on a foundation of trust. I’m delighted to see the National AI Strategy published today, setting out a plan to cement the UK’s position as a global leader in the development and deployment of trustworthy AI.
“Putting the right governance regime in place will be crucial, and the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation will soon be publishing an AI assurance roadmap to help build an ecosystem of products and services for evaluating the trustworthiness of AI systems.”
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