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DSIT unveils forum to drive AI adoption in UK businesses

UK government launches AI Opportunity Forum with tech and business chiefs to help firms drive up UK productivity through AI

Companies including Google, Microsoft, Barclays and Vodafone are set to join the government’s AI Opportunity Forum, looking at artificial intelligence (AI) opportunities in the private sector.

Overseen by technology secretary Michelle Donelan and Franck Petitgas, the prime minister’s special advisor on business and investment, AI companies have been invited to join forces with business leaders to look at how to drive AI adoption across the private sector. 

AI promises to help businesses boost productivity and fuel innovation, and could deliver growth across the UK economy. Google’s UK economic impact report forecasts that AI-powered innovation could create over £400bn in economic value for the UK economy by 2030.

Yet, according to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), just one in 10 businesses are currently fully prepared to roll out the technology.

“AI develops at an incredible pace, and we’re acting in lockstep to ensure businesses and employees in every sector of our economy can take advantage of this generation-defining technology,” said Donelan. “We want to see organisations across the UK tapping into the transformative power of AI to boost their productivity, unlock new opportunities and drive growth.”

The forum plans to focus on culture and skills in UK businesses, and will also look at how firms manage governance, awareness and the risks of AI. Given that AI systems require high-quality, unbiased training data, the availability of data is another area being discussed.

Commenting on the AI opportunity for UK businesses, prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “We stand on the cusp of a productivity revolution – one which has the potential to grow the economy in a way we’ve never seen before. So, it’s important we get it right. This forum builds on the AI Safety Summit – putting the UK at the vanguard of AI innovation to help us safely embrace AI in a way that delivers for British people.”

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Along with Google, Microsoft, Barclays and Vodafone, DSIT announced a further 13 forum members, including GSK, KPMG, Arm, Barclays, Tesco and Universal Music Group.

The pharmaceutical sector is among the verticals likely to see a huge opportunity in the use of AI for applications such as drug discovery. For instance, in an article posted on its website, GSK said AI is helping the company build a more complete picture of human health and disease. The ability to generate and process vast amounts of biological and clinical data offers GSK a way to uncover complex patterns and trends that help guide drug discovery and development – from early stage research through to clinical trials.

Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, said: “We’re very optimistic about the opportunities for positive impact from AI, not just for GSK but for the UK’s short and long-term economic growth, innovation and skills development.

“The UK has the potential and talent to exploit these transformative technologies, but faster adoption is key. This new forum brings together businesses large and small with AI developers to develop practical ideas and support, and we look forward to contributing.”

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