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Government backs Turing Institute in bid to set global AI technical standards

The DCMS has announced an AI Standards Hub, comprising The Alan Turing Institute, the National Physical Laboratory and the British Standards Institution to set a global bar for AI technical standards

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has put forward The Alan Turing Institute in a bid to set global artificial intelligence (AI) technical standards from the UK.

The ATI, the British Standards Institution and the National Physical Laboratory will set up an AI Standards Hub as part of the government’s 10-year National AI Strategy.

The DCMS made the announcement in tandem with the publication of research from Capital Economics, which found that more than 1.3 million UK businesses will use AI by 2040, and projects that UK AI spending will reach more than £200bn by the same date.

The research, AI activity in UK businesses, broadly defines artificial intelligence as “machine learning, natural language processing and generation, computer vision and image processing/generation, data management and analysis, and hardware”.

It indicated that UK businesses spent £16.7bn on AI technology and AI related-labour in 2020; found that 432,000 businesses have adopted at least one AI-related technology; and discovered that data management is the most prevalent AI technology in active use, with 9% of UK firms having adopted it.

DCMS’s statement about the new hub said it will “unlock the huge economic potential of these [AI] technologies to boost investment and employment now the UK has left the European Union”.

Chris Philp, DCMS minister for tech and the digital economy, said: “It’s imperative the UK remains at the forefront of this transformative technology, which is already improving our lives and has huge potential to create new jobs and wealth.

“Today, I’m confirming that the renowned Alan Turing Institute will lead the trial of a new UK programme with support from the British Standards Institution and National Physical Laboratory to help shape and improve the global standards for artificial intelligence. 

“It marks the first step in delivering our National AI Strategy and will develop the tools needed so organisations and consumers can benefit from all the opportunities of AI. We want the UK to lead the world in developing AI standards.”

The hub will also “bring the UK’s AI community together through a new online platform and develop educational materials to help organisations develop and benefit from global standards”. 

Adrian Smith, director and chief executive of The Alan Turing Institute, added: “International standards are set to play an increasingly crucial enabling role in the adoption and effective governance of AI technologies.

“Given our place at the heart of the UK’s thriving AI ecosystem, I am delighted to see the Turing identified as the home of this important new initiative. We look forward to working closely with our partners in establishing the AI Standards Hub.”

Scott Steedman, director-general of standards at BSI, said: “International standards are a vital tool to help unlock the economic potential of AI, including establishing a common language for all to use. BSI, as the national standards body, is ideally placed to convene the AI community in the UK to identify and develop good practices for the development, governance and use of AI technologies that will be internationally recognised. 

National Physical Laboratory’s CEO Peter Thompson added: “This coordinated UK effort will strengthen our world-leading position and is an important step in supporting research and innovators in this area, as well as providing a layer of confidence to those using and interacting with AI. 

The DCMS said that additional information on how organisations and interested parties can get involved with and join the AI Standards Hub pilot will be released in due course. 

Read more about the National AI Strategy

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