UK government directs funding to ‘agile’ AI regulation

By on 06/02/2024 | Updated on 06/02/2024
Photo by flutie8211 via Pixabay

The UK government has allocated more than £100m (US$125.5m) in funding to support regulators and advance research and innovation in AI.

This will comprise £90m (US$113m) for the creation of nine AI research hubs across the UK and a partnership with the US on responsible AI. The remaining £10m (US$12.5m) will be spent on preparing and upskilling regulators to harness the opportunities of artificial intelligences and to address its risks.

In its response to an AI Regulation White Paper consultation, the government noted that AI is “rapidly developing” and that the risks it poses and “most appropriate mitigations” are “still not fully understood”.

“UK government will not rush to legislate, or risk implementing ‘quick-fix’ rules that would soon become outdated or ineffective,” it stated.

“The government’s context-based approach means existing regulators are empowered to address AI risks in a targeted way.”

It said the funding would help regulators in sectors such as telecoms, healthcare, finance and education to develop “cutting-edge research” and “practical tools” for examining AI systems.

Read more: UK publishes new generative AI guidance for civil servants

The nine planned research hubs will focus on fields of expertise such as healthcare, chemistry, and mathematics.

Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation, and technology, said: “By taking an agile, sector-specific approach, we have begun to grip the risks immediately, which in turn is paving the way for the UK to become one of the first countries in the world to reap the benefits of AI safely.”

Regulators issued deadline for AI management plans

Key regulators such as Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority are due to publish their AI management strategies by the end of April this year. Their submissions are expected to include a breakdown of AI risks related to their respective areas, their current ability to address them, and details of how they seek to regulate AI over the coming year.

Some regulators have already begun the process. In March 2023, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) updated its guidance on how UK data protection laws apply to AI systems. According to the ICO, this was done in response to “requests from UK industry to clarify requirements for fairness in AI” and helped to deliver on its pledge to “help organisations adopt new technologies while protecting people and vulnerable groups”.

The government plans to launch a steering committee in Spring of this year that it said would “support and guide the activities of a formal regulator coordination structure within government”.  

Markus Anderljung, head of policy at the Centre for the Governance of AI, said: “This common sense, pragmatic approach will now be further strengthened by robust regulator expertise, allowing people across the country to safely harness the benefits of AI for years to come.”

The government has also announced that a further £2m (US$2.5m) of funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council will go towards supporting new research projects that “help to define what responsible AI looks like across sectors such as education, policing and the creative industries”.

In addition, £19m (US$23.8m) from the Accelerating Trustworthy AI Phase 2 competition – which is supported through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund – will go towards 21 projects aimed at developing “innovative trusted and responsible” AI and machine learning solutions to “accelerate deployment” and “drive productivity”.

Read more: AI key to ‘transform productivity’ of the civil service, says Oliver Dowden

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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