Tech entrepreneur Ian Hogarth to chair AI Foundation Model Taskforce

The government has hired tech investor Ian Hogarth to lead its taskforce on artificial intelligence (AI) safety, aiming to tackle the safety challenges presented by AI and build public confidence in the use of the technology

The government has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) Foundation Model Taskforce to deal with safety aspects around research and development of AI.

The taskforce will be led by angel investor, tech entrepreneur and AI specialist Ian Hogarth, who will be reporting directly to prime minister Rishi Sunak and technology secretary Chloe Smith.

A key focus of the taskforce will be to take forward cutting-edge safety research ahead of the first global summit on AI safety, which is being hosted by the UK later this year.

The taskforce will bring together government, academia and industry experts to help build capabilities in foundation models and leverage the UK’s existing strengths, including leadership in AI research and development.

Foundation models are general-purpose AI systems, such as ChatGPT, which are trained on huge data sets which can then be applied to tasks across the economy. The government aims for the taskforce to inform broader work on the development of international “guardrails”, including shared safety and security standards.

Technology secretary Chloe Smith said: “[The taskforce will] steer the responsible and ethical development of cutting-edge AI solutions, and ensure that the UK is right at the forefront when it comes to using this transformative technology to deliver growth and future-proof our economy.

“With Ian on board, the taskforce will be perfectly placed to strengthen the UK’s leadership on AI and ensure that British people and businesses have access to the trustworthy tools they need to benefit from the many opportunities artificial intelligence has to offer,” she said.

The taskforce will complement work already being undertaken by AI companies themselves, who have committed to give the taskforce early access to models for research and safety purposes to help them better understand both opportunities and risks of AI systems.

The government has committed £100m to the taskforce, which was first announced in April by prime minister Rishi Sunak and will be modelled on the success of the Covid-19 Vaccines Taskforce.

Sunak said the taskforce will ensure “we do things differently and move with the same pace and vigour as we rise to meet the task ahead”.

“The more AI progresses, the greater the opportunities are to grow our economy and deliver better public services,” he said. “But with such potential to transform our future, we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to ensure AI develops safely and responsibly.”

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.

Taskforce chair Ian Hogarth said that UK scientists and entrepreneurs “have made many important contributions to the field of AI, from Alan Turing through to AlphaFold”.

“The prime minister has laid out a bold vision for the UK to supercharge the field of AI safety, one that until now has been under-resourced even as AI capabilities have accelerated,” he said. “I’m honoured to have the chance to chair such an important mission in the lead up to the first global summit on AI safety in the UK.”

During London Tech Week, technology secretary Chloe Smith also announced a £54m package for a series of AI initiatives, including a joint project with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The project will receive £31m, which will be used to back research at the University of Southampton to create safe AI and bring together academia, business and the wider public to look at how responsible AI can be developed, while also considering the impact on wider society.

Read more about the government and artificial intelligence:

  • Artificial intelligence whitepaper outlines UK government’s proposals to regulate the technology, which are based around creating an agile, “pro-innovation” framework.
  • Tech industry figures are broadly supportive of the need for artificial intelligence to be regulated, but despite growing consensus, there is still disagreement over what effective AI regulation looks like.
  • In her speech at London Tech Week, the technology secretary launched funding to support a series of AI initiatives, including creating a research and innovation ecosystem for trustworthy and responsible AI.

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