Sunak Assembles Taskforce To Accelerate UK Artificial Intelligence Sector

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a bigger part of our daily lives. For some, this is an incredibly exciting and opportunistic prospect, for others it may seem like a terrifying futuristic abyss from which there is no escape. But whether you like it or not, AI is here to stay and only time will tell how big an impact it will have on our global society. 

Currently, the US is leading the pack when it comes to AI development as several major tech companies that are heading up the sector are headquartered in the States.

But recently at Business Connect, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the tech secretary announced that an AI Taskforce, or the Foundation Model Taskforce, is in the works that will “accelerate” the UK’s generative AI sector.

This Taskforce will be backed by £100 million in government funding and will help the UK tech sector to keep pace with the rapid advancements happening abroad in AI technologies such as ChatGPT. 

Recent Government Investment In The UK’s AI Sector

This £100m investment into AI is in addition to the £900m which was already announced in March as part of the Spring Budget.

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt stated that this £900m funding was part of the government’s plan to ensure the UK can keep up with the rapidly growing AI industry that is flourishing abroad. 

In terms of what Hunt announced for AI in the Spring Budget, he stated that whilst the UK’s tech industry is advanced, meaningful developments in the AI sector would require more “computing horsepower”. To achieve this, the chancellor announced the £900m budget to enact the recommendations made in the Future of Compute Review – an independent report on the UK compute needs over the next decade. 

Part of the government’s plan includes the launch of an AI sandbox, which will “trial new, faster approaches to help innovators get cutting-edge products to market”. £10 million of the funding will also go towards the annual AI Manchester Prize, and a further portion of the funding will go towards intellectual property (IP) regulation and copyright laws.

Sunak’s Artificial Intelligence Task Force

The new AI Foundation Model Taskforce will follow a similar model to the Covid Vaccine Taskforce and will essentially attempt to keep the UK competitive as the US and China continue to invest considerably larger sums into developing AI. 

The Taskforce will invest the funding in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, the government said. It will report directly to both Sunak and the tech secretary.

Foundation models are a type of neural network trained on large volumes of data. They are capable of generating text, video, images and audio based on user prompts.

In relation to the motivation behind the Taskforce, Mr Sunak said, “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,”

“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.”

This Taskforce will therefore not only help to propel the development of AI so that the UK can become a “science and technology superpower”, but will also help to meet wider goals of ensuring that the adoption of AI is safe and reliable.

How The Taskforce Will Affect Life In The UK

The UK government has named AI development a key priority area as it believes that it will contribute hundreds of billions to the economy. 

“Developed responsibly, cutting-edge AI can have a transformative impact in nearly every industry. It can revolutionise the way we develop new medical treatments, tackle climate change and improve our public services, all while growing and future-proofing our economy,” said Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology.

“We need to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer us 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.”

This recent funding and Taskforce will therefore help to speed up the process in which AI will affect our daily lives as it is clear the government has plans to integrate it as quickly as possible into UK industry. 

In fact, the announcement of the Taskforce has come just weeks after the government released the AI regulatory white paper in March. This declared that it will take a sector-by-sector approach to AI in order to “turbocharge” growth while ensuring “responsible” use by businesses.

The proposed regulations will cover all types of AI, including generative AI models such as ChatGPT. In the white paper, the government also offered five principles that it expects regulators to follow when looking at how companies and developers are using AI.

These five principles are safety and transparency from AI developers, fairness in ensuring new technology complies with existing UK law, accountability for the outcomes of how AI is used, and contestability to provide people with the opportunity to dispute harmful AI decisions.

So, this past month has demonstrated that the UK is currently experiencing a true stepping stone into becoming an AI-powered nation.

These recent government decisions have made it clear that they wish to implement AI as fast as they can into UK infrastructure and industry, and Sunak’s latest announcement has only confirmed how quickly this change will take place. 

Evidently, Sunak does not share the concerns of those who have signed the open letter calling for a pause on developing powerful AI models such as Elon Musk who have cited the “risks to society” AI presents. 

Several countries in the East have even banned influential AI models such as ChatGPT and, more recently, Italy became the first Western country to also ban the AI chatbot due to privacy concerns. 

Nevertheless, Sunak’s latest announcement has made it clear that the UK government intends to go on with their plans for AI in a way they believe will be safe and opportunistic, and, more importantly, create a pathway for the UK to become a worldwide science and technology superpower.