Government admits ‘more can be done’ to support AI

Written by Rebecca Hill on 17 January 2017 in News
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The government has acknowledged that it could do more to support the development of robotics and autonomous systems and artificial intelligence - but has stopped short of establishing a robotics leadership council.

The government has said it could do more to support robotics and AI - Photo credit: Fotolia

In response to a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report published last year, the government has today said that the area of robotics needs “improved strategic co-ordination and leadership”.

This is particularly true given the complexity and diversity of the fields, the government said, adding: “To capitalise on the significant economic opportunities presented by [robotics and autonomous systems] will require close working between government, industry and academia."

However, despite saying that “more can be done” to support robotics, the government did not accept the committee’s recommendations to create a robotics and autonomous systems leadership council or a Commission on Artificial Intelligence.


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Instead, it said that it would “consider the best model of leadership” for robotics as part of its work on the wider industrial strategy, which is expected this year, and that this would involve industry and the research base.

"The government will also review whether a new physical centre, bolstering of existing centres and/or a programme of grant funding is needed to support [robotics and autonomous systems] technologies above and beyond those that already exist," it said.

Meanwhile, on AI, the government said that it would work with the Royal Society and the British Academy, which are carrying out research into the implications of machine learning and data governance, respectively.

The government’s response also noted its investment in robotics through its network of Catapult centres, the Alan Turing Institute and the recently-announced Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for priority technologies.

The committee’s report also stressed the importance of digital skills, saying that “digital exclusion has no place in 21st century Britain” and calling for this to be addressed in the forthcoming digital strategy.

In response, the government said: “We are already among the most digitally connected countries in the world with a globally successful digital economy. We engage closely with the digital industries to understand their concerns and priorities, and will continue to do so.”

This echoes comments given last week to the committee’s previous Digital Skills Crisis report, which was slammed by the MPs for failing to address any of their concerns about the strategy.

In the most recent response, however, the government added that it “was not complacent” about the issues of training the workforce to ensure they kept up with new technologies.

“We are working closely with the industry, education and training bodies and charity organisations to reduce key skills gaps and address urgent shortages,” it said. 

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