US-UK AI cooperation deal lands in a crowded landscape

By on 08/10/2020 | Updated on 08/10/2020
The US-UK deal has raised eyebrows within other GPAI nations. (Nicolas Raymond via

The UK and the US have signed a cooperation agreement on artificial intelligence (AI) research and development. The declaration, signed on 25 September, describes the cooperation between the UK and the US as a “shared vision for driving technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence”, and talks of the opportunities to increase collaboration in R&D. “We intend to establish a bilateral government-to-government dialogue on the areas identified in this vision and explore an AI R&D ecosystem that promotes the mutual wellbeing, prosperity, and security of present and future generations,” it says.

The deal comes months after the launch of the Global Partnership for AI (GPAI), which currently comprises the G7 nations – including the UK and USA – and is dedicated to the responsible adoption of AI based on the shared principles of “human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth”. The US had initially declined to join, arguing that the group’s approach focused too heavily on regulation, which it feared could hamper US innovation. However, it changed its mind following negotiations in May, having decided that by joining the group it would be better able to counter China’s growing dominance in the field of AI, which is widely seen as a threat to civil liberties.

The US-UK deal has raised eyebrows within other GPAI nations. “We want to work on a ‘Global Partnership on AI’ — but these two countries want to work together in a bilateral way, as well,” Liesje Schreinemacher, a member of the European Parliament for the liberal Renew Europe group, told AI: Decoded. “I’m wondering what brought that upon them and what that means for the GPAI.”

Politico reports that lawmakers in Brussels are worried that the US is trying to undermine the European Union’s efforts to implement AI rules for the bloc by striking individual deals with European countries. “I don’t know what the intentions of the US are but what’s important for me is that… if we want to export our own technology to the US and if we want to import US technology to the EU, we should try to have the same standards,” Schreinemacher said.

As for the UK, its minister of state for media and data, John Whittingdale, made clear during Politico’s recent AI summit that having left the EU, the UK would not be bound to its AI rules, saying that the country “is looking to create” its own framework.  

A historic relationship

When asked about the UK/US deal during the summit, Whittingdale said it “is an agreement which was reached a couple of years ago between the UK government and the US and it took a while to work out the details”.

“The relationship between the UK and the US is a very close one, it’s a historic one,” Whittingdale added, “but this is not to say that we are not keen to see as much international cooperation through international bodies as possible.”

US chief technology officer Michael Kratsios, who signed the deal for the White House, told Politico: “The UK is one of the leading countries in the world — it’s home to DeepMind and so many other great discoveries — and it’s critical that we share that recent development knowledge.”

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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