UK taskforce set to drive generative AI safety and opportunities

The government has committed £100m to helping the UK develop and build out generative artificial intelligence capabilities

To tie in with the government’s new Business Connect UK innovation and growth conference, prime minister Rishi Sunak has announced £100m of funding to support generative artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives.

The government plans to use the funding to kickstart the delivery of the UK’s capability in safe and reliable foundation models. This builds on the £900m announced for a new exascale supercomputer and a dedicated AI research resource to equip the UK with the processing power it needs to support the next generation of AI innovation.

A government-industry taskforce, announced as part of the Integrated Review Refresh last month, will bring together government and industry experts, and report directly to the prime minister and technology secretary.

The government said this investment builds the UK’s “sovereign” national capabilities to enable public services to benefit from the transformational impact of generative AI.

Modelled on the success of the Covid-19 Vaccines Taskforce, the government said the Foundation Model Taskforce’s role is to develop the safe and reliable use of AI across the economy and ensure the UK is globally competitive in this strategic technology. It will play a crucial role in ensuring the major, multi-year funding announced at the Budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritise and strengthen the UK’s capability in foundation models.

The taskforce is also being asked to focus on opportunities to establish the UK as a world leader in foundation models and their applications across the economy, and acting as a global standard bearer for AI safety.

Foundational AI technology is predicted to raise global GDP by 7% over a decade. Research suggests that the broad adoption of such systems could triple national productivity growth rates.

The government said this made its adoption a vital opportunity to grow the UK economy. To support businesses and public trust in these systems and drive their adoption, the taskforce’s role will include working with the AI sector towards developing the safety and reliability of foundation models, both at a scientific and commercial level.

“Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security,” said Sunak. “By investing in emerging technologies through our new expert taskforce, we can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy.”

The funding will be invested by the Foundation Model Taskforce in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, to create opportunities for domestic innovation. The government said the first pilots targeting public services would launch in the next six months.

Science, innovation and technology secretary Michelle Donelan said it was important to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer in the future.

“We’re backing our expert taskforce with the funding to make our ambitions for an AI-enabled country a reality and keep the UK at the front of the pack in this emerging technology,” she added.

“To ensure such leadership, the greatest capability we can develop is in the safety and reliability of such systems. This will ensure that the public and business have the trust they need to confidently adopt this technology and fully realise its benefits. That is exactly what this taskforce will prioritise.”

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