Ministers commit £10m to boost regulators’ AI expertise as government unveils Responsible Technology Adoption Unit

In its response to the public consultation on its AI regulation plan, the government has unveiled millions of pounds of funding and a rebrand for its own data ethics hub

The government has committed £10m to improving regulators’ expertise in artificial intelligence and established a new-look Responsible Technology Adoption Unit to support departments in adopting automation and data tools.

These are among a range of measures intended to establish the UK as an AI world-leader and unveiled as part of government’s formal response to its public consultation on the white paper released last year outlining plans for a “pro-innovation approach to AI regulation”.

The £10m funding to support upskilling of market watchdogs is intended to help “regulators to identify and understand risks in their domain and to develop their skills and approaches to AI”

“Effective regulation relies on regulators having the right skills, tools, and expertise. While some regulators have been able to put the right expertise in place to address AI, others are less prepared,” the government response said. “We are investing in regulators today to future-proof their capabilities for tomorrow. The funding will enable regulators to collaborate to create, adapt, and improve practical tools to address AI risks and opportunities within and across their remits. It will enable regulators to carry out research and development to produce novel, actionable insights that will set the foundation of their approaches for years to come.”

In the coming weeks and months, officials from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will work closely with regulatory bodies “to identify the most promising opportunities to leverage this funding”.

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The response also revealed that government will invest £90m into setting up nine research hubs around the country with the aim of supporting the implementation of artificial intelligence in fields such as healthcare, science, and maths. This funding will also support the establishment of a partnership between authorities in the US and UK dedicated to responsible use of AI technologies.

A further £2m will be spent through the Arts and Humanities Research Council to deliver projects examining responsible AI in the context of education, policing, and creative industries.

The white paper response outlined that the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, which sits within the DSIT and was created in 2019, has been given a rebrand intended to better reflect its role; it will now be known as the Responsible Technology Adoption Unit.

“The name highlights the directorate’s role in developing tools and techniques that enable responsible adoption of AI in the private and public sectors, in support of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s broader mission to drive innovations that change lives and sustain economic growth,” the unit said in a statement. “The RTA will continue to champion responsible innovation across the public and private sectors; developing tools that give organisations confidence that AI and data-driven tech work the way they expect.”

In her foreword to the response, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said that the government’s work on AI regulation has sought to pursue an “agile, sector-based approach [that] has empowered regulators to create bespoke measures that are tailored to the various needs and risks posed by different sections of our economy”.

“This response paper is another clear, decisive step forward for the UK’s ambitions to lead in safe AI and to be a science and technology superpower by the end of the decade,” she added. “Whether you are an AI developer, user, safety researcher or you represent civil society, we all have a shared interest in realising the opportunities of safe AI development. I am personally driven by a mission to improve the lives of the British people through technology and innovation, and our response paper sets out exactly how that mission will become a reality.”

Sam Trendall

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