Think tank calls for ‘Great British GPT’ to keep UK ahead in AI race

A report from UK think tank Onward has recommended that the UK develops a 'Great British GPT' tool to stay ahead in the global AI race

With generative AI developments continuing to rise in prominence across business, the Onward white paper calls for UK government investment in the technology to focus on scaling capabilities up to national level, while managing risks.

Fears that the UK is being left behind in the AI race are said to come from the majority of developments coming out of Silicon Valley home to ChatGPT developer OpenAI, as well as big tech stakeholders like Microsoft and Google.

Three key recommendations were cited by the document, for ensuring maintenance of AI innovation across the UK:

  • Capitalising on economic and geostrategic opportunities: Development of a national ‘GB GPT’ tool would need to rely on AI labs, researchers, and consumer-facing applications, with incentives to attract experts to the country and the launch of a new fellowship programme to “build expertise in the heart of government” also requested.
  • Limitation of risk: “Multilateral solutions” have been called for towards managing AI risks, with a UK Evaluations Framework being recommended as an outlet for academic and industry expertise to set global standards.
  • Management of labour and macroeconomic developments: Onward has asked the Treasury to take measures towards shifting tax burdens from the labour market to capital “in the medium term”.


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According to the report written by Onward policy fellow and former Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Shabbir Merali long-term benefits of boosted investment in AI will be driven by two trends: rapid adoption, and improved workforce productivity.

ChatGPT saw its amount of users surge to 100 million in the space of two months — compared to 30 months for Instagram, 55 for Spotify, and 70 for Uber and MIT research reveals that large language models (LLMs) have sped up professional writing tasks by 40 per cent while improving output quality.

In terms of economic impact, the report identifies the possibility of lowered cost curves, which may lead to short term interest rates, but also the need for higher, longer term interest rates.

“AI is the transformational technology of our generation. Its technological capabilities have the power to change our economy, society and politics,” said Merali in his letter to Government.

“The Government clearly recognises the importance of AI but it needs to do more and act faster, given the exponential pace of change. Investing in GB GPT and treating AI safety as a priority foreign policy objective are tangible actions the Government should take today.”

The full study from think tank Onward can be found here.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.