No10 Innovation Fellowship Programme ramps up AI focus

Second round of the programme, run jointly by Number 10 and the Government Digital Service, focuses on AI and automation

The government has launched the second round of its No10 Innovation Fellowship Programme, a joint venture between the Government Digital Service (GDS) and 10 Downing Street.

The programme aims to attract technology and digital talent to the public sector, and this year the government is focusing primarily on artificial intelligence (AI) and automation experts.

“Advancements in AI provide a generational opportunity to reimagine how government works, drive efficiency and generate better value for money, improve equality of access. If done well, it will enable us to generate a huge leap forward in the way we deliver services to the public,” the call for applications said.

“Therefore, this year we are recruiting predominantly AI and automation specialists. We are looking for the best technical talent in the country to join us and help drive this revolution, harnessing the power of AI to transform government and improve the lives of the people we serve.”

The government wants a diverse group of fellows with a “passion for using cutting-edge technology” and improve society, and is especially looking for applicants with direct experience in applying AI and those who have strong digital skills which they have previously used to solve public problems.

The fellowship programme was first announced in June 2020 as a way to attract top digital and tech talent from across the UK and from overseas into government. The initiative was inspired by the US Presidential Fellowship programme and is supported by an advisory board of digital and tech leaders in the public and private sector, as well as academia.

Candidates admitted to the programme will be expected to work on the modernisation of public services with adoption of cutting-edge technology, as well as innovative approaches from outside government. 

“Our fellows are deployed on challenging issues that are a priority to the prime minister. Issues that we believe can be best tackled through the technical brilliance, fresh thinking and innate leadership our fellows possess,” the call for applications said.

The fellowships run for 6-12 months with the possibility of extending it further, and fellows will receive mentorship and guidance from the No10 data science team. The government will hire candidates on a rolling basis as “new priority challenges emerge”.

Applications for the first year of the fellowship opened in March 2021, and seven fellows joined the UK civil service in its first round, spread out in four different government departments, working on five high-impact projects and “foster interdepartmental modernisation”.

Projects they worked on included creating a Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) strategy for the Department for Education and improving clinical trials through data at NHS England.

“Departments report that they have found individual fellows to be “force multipliers”, inspiring them to modernise and innovate, and enabling the sharing of lessons cross government,” the government’s call for applications said.  

In July 2020, the government launched the Office for Talent, aiming to attract, retain and develop talent in government.

Read more about government and AI:

  • Artificial intelligence whitepaper outlines UK government’s proposals to regulate the technology, which are based around creating an agile, “pro-innovation” framework.
  • Cabinet Office signs a deal with data analytics company Quantexa, aiming to use data and artificial intelligence to tackle public sector fraud.
  • Government publishes baseline analysis of UK artificial intelligence sector as it pins hopes on future growth.

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