To mark London Tech Week, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has launched the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy. This is the government’s ten-year plan to strengthen the UK’s position in the world of AI, following the £2.3 billion that the Government has invested in AI since 2014. This has helped fund the NHSX AI Lab to aid the growth of AI used in healthcare and to create AI Centres for Doctoral Training for the next generation of innovators.
The National AI Strategy is based on three core assumptions:
- The key drivers of progress, discovery and strategic advantage in AI are access to people, data, computing and finance.
- AI will become mainstream in many areas of the economy and action is required to ensure every sector and region can benefit from this.
- The regulatory regime needs to keep up with the fast-changing demands of AI, maximising growth and competition, driving UK excellence in innovation, and protecting the safety, security, choices and rights of UK citizens.
So, the strategy sets out three pillars:
- Investing in the long-term needs of the AI ecosystem.
- Ensuring AI benefits all sectors and regions.
- Governing AI effectively.
The strategy contains numerous plans and commitments, and we have highlighted a few below. See further here: National AI Strategy - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
The first pillar (investment) aims to increase the type, frequency and scale of AI discoveries that are developed and exploited. The plan is to achieve this aim through supporting research, guaranteeing the UK access to skilled individuals, and ensuring innovators have access to the necessary tools to deliver new systems. Plans within this pillar include launching a National AI Research and Innovation Programme to discover new AI technologies and support the adoption of AI across the UK. In addition, the Government commits to revising visa routes to bring talent into the UK, and to introduce bootcamps through the Department of Education to build the skills of the current workforce.
The second pillar (spreading the benefits) aims to diffuse AI across the economy, in all regions. They seek to achieve this by supporting innovation in “high potential sectors” that do not currently use AI, improve understanding of when it is (or isn’t) appropriate to adopt AI and to ensure AI is adopted to support other Government outcomes. Actions include working alongside the IPO to consult on the use of copyright and patent protection for AI inventions, researching the factors that have so far prevented diffusion, and using AI to deal with real-world problems including in healthcare and defence.
The final pillar (governance) intends to build a trusted and pro-innovation system for governance. The Government wants regulation to be flexible and proportionate while providing sufficient assurances to the public about the safety of AI technologies. The Office for AI will be responsible for developing the national position on governing AI, and this will be set out in a White Paper early next year. In addition, to focus on assurances to the public, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) will publish an assurance roadmap.
There are delicate ‘balancing’ acts involved in achieving these goals, especially between the first pillar (investment) and the third pillar (governance). Not only does the investment landscape need to be adequately enticing, but investors will need to grapple with what is set to become an increasingly regulated area. In this regard, it will be interesting to see if, in addition to existing data privacy regulation (see ICO guidance on the use of AI), the Government follows the likely path of future EU AI regulation (see Proposed EU AI laws). Let’s hope the UK can achieve these goals in a way that would have made Alan Turing proud!
(DCMS Minister Chris Philips):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"