UK government announces AI white paper to guide innovation

The government announcement of a national white paper for AI innovation states an aim to "supercharge growth" across the UK

With UK businesses looking to take advantage of evolving technologies like generative AI, and artificial intelligence being reported to contributes £3.7bn to the UK economy, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) says it’s looking to boost recruitment, while maintaining public trust.

While being capable of helping staff across multiple sectors focus on value add by reducing strain caused by an array of manual, administrative duties, there are concerns around fairness and privacy, as well as possible redundancies.

The white paper details five key principles around AI research and development, which look to guide regulators in facilitating use of the technology that balances innovation with safety. These are:

  • Safety, security and robustness: AI use cases need to be explored and facilitated securely, safely and in a way that allows for careful management of risks.
  • Transparency and explainability: People using the technology need to be able to clearly communicate when and how algorithms are being used, and the reasons for decisions made.
  • Fairness: All AI innovation will need to comply with legislation, including the Equality Act 2010 or UK GDPR, as well as being completely unbiased regarding users from different people groups; companies must also not create unfair commercial outcomes.
  • Accountability and governance: measures need to be taken to ensure appropriate monitoring of how AI is being used, with clear accountability put in place for outcomes.
  • Contestability and redress: clear channels need to be in place for disputing harmful outcomes or decisions generated by AI.

In line with the above principles, the government has tasked regulators to “issue practical guidance”, as well as tools and resources like risk assessment templates, to businesses around the use of artificial intelligence, over the next 12 months.

A £2m sandbox has also been announced, to aid development of new product and service innovation ideas in a controlled environment.

“AI has the potential to make Britain a smarter, healthier and happier place to live and work. Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction, and the pace of AI development is staggering, so we need to have rules to make sure it is developed safely,” said Science Innovation and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan.

“Our new approach is based on strong principles so that people can trust businesses to unleash this technology of tomorrow.”

The current state of play

The government also recently announced a new national funding scheme dedicated to AI innovation, worth £250m.

Recent research from Fujitsu, however, shows that a lack of incentivisation and required technical skills are proving key barriers for UK organisations towards driving true value from AI and other emerging technologies.

Sue Daley, director for tech and innovation at trade association techUK, welcomes the new AI white paper, stating: “The government must now prioritise building the necessary regulatory capacity, expertise, and coordination.

“techUK stands ready to work alongside government and regulators to ensure that the benefits of this powerful technology are felt across both society and the economy.”

Also welcoming the framework is Harry Keen, CEO & co-founder of generative AI start-up Hazy, who believes the UK tech sector has been “punching above our weight in AI development with world class AI research institutions spread across the country”.

Keen continued: “As a society, we are at the dawn of a similar revolution we went through at the turn of the millennium with ‘the internet’. AI technology is going to seed entire new industries and create a totally new economy.

“The UK needs to capitalise on our current position by translating the research into valuable companies that can pioneer this sector and be the tech giants of the future.

“We welcome the spirit of this whitepaper because efficient regulation and guidance is a key part to enabling UK businesses to use AI effectively and safely.”

More information on today’s government AI white paper announcement 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.