AI Ascension: UK's Bold Plan to Boost Artificial Intelligence and Secure AI Leadership
By Patrick Adams, Consultant

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan have announced a £100 million investment in initial start-up funding for a new task force focused on accelerating the UK's capability in rapidly emerging artificial intelligence (AI). The funding will supplement a £900 million investment in computing technology announced in the recent Budget. The announcement is on the back of the Government's AI White Paper, which outlines the UK's new approach to AI regulation that aims to build public trust, promote innovation, and solidify the UK's position as a leader in AI while maintaining a balance between risks and innovation.

AI has become increasingly accessible to people and businesses through the use of tools such as Google’s Bard and Chat GBT. Furthermore, Microsoft is launching Co-Pilot, which is powered by Chat GBT and will link to Microsoft Office applications. During such a formative stage in AI advancement, the UK is trying to incentivise development in the UK.

The AI Regulation White Paper outlines five guiding principles for AI use in the UK and proposes to implement these principles through existing regulators rather than creating new legislation. These are:

  • Safety, security, and robustness

  • Transparency and explainability

  • Fairness

  • Accountability and governance

  • Contestability and redress

The task force is modelled on the COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce and will work to develop safe and reliable uses of AI across the economy and ensure global competitiveness. This model arguably proved successful during the pandemic, as it enabled the UK to vaccine its population rapidly. The UK’s vaccine task force was headed by Dame Kate Bingham, who employed a self-described venture capitalist approach to the challenges surrounding the roll-out of vaccines in the UK. This involved leveraging industry connections – collaborating as partners rather than opponents – and understanding that incurring losses is an inherent part of building a diverse portfolio.

In a similar approach, the proposed AI task force will prioritise developing and broadly adopting safe and reliable foundation models, such as large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Google Bard. These AI systems, trained on massive datasets, can be utilised for various tasks across the economy to increase efficiency and speed, automating tasks and providing novel solutions to existing problems. These models are reliant on massive amounts of data to improve their accuracy, meaning data will only become more important and valuable as these LLMs usage increases across the economy.

The task force will also collaborate with the sector to improve the safety and reliability of foundation models, supporting businesses and public trust in the technology. Investments will be made in infrastructure and public service procurement, fostering opportunities for domestic innovation. Initial pilots targeting public services are expected to launch within six months.

The first pilot projects are expected to launch within the next six months. This initiative aligns with the Government's previous pledge to invest £900 million in constructing a supercomputer specifically designed to train and operate domestic AI models. This system has been referred to as ‘BritGPT’ by some. So, while the initial investment of £100 million is low, it is being done on the back of powerful hardware. The investment aims to solidify the UK's position as a science and technology superpower by 2030, with hopes that the task force model can foster innovation within the sector.

The UK is third in the global AI rankings behind the United States and China and has the largest AI industry in Europe. A report by the Joint Research Centre also reveals that Brexit has significantly reduced the EU's AI strength, as the UK boasts a robust AI sector. Before its exit, the UK accounted for over half of the EU's AI players. The UK wants to remain ahead of the EU, which is also demonstrated by the UK's pro-innovation regime to AI through its white paper.

AI has the potential to revolutionise numerous industries and sectors and has been shown to increase productivity by 14%. In healthcare, it can assist with diagnostics and drug discovery, while in finance, it can improve fraud detection and risk management. AI's applications in education include personalised learning experiences and automated grading. Lastly, transport, manufacturing, and agriculture can benefit from AI's optimisation capabilities, and the technology can also enhance customer experiences in retail and e-commerce. With its far-reaching benefits, the UK Government will hope to solidify its position as a global leader in AI, drive economic growth, and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

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