Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Chloe Smith has announced a series of investments to develop trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) research.

Universities across the UK are set to benefit from £54 million investment in their work to develop cutting edge artificial intelligence.

Delivered through UK Research and Innovation, £31m of the funding will be used to back ground-breaking research at the University of Southampton to establish responsible and trustworthy AI, bringing together the expertise of academia, business, and the wider public to explore how responsible AI can be developed and utilised, while considering its broader impact on wider society.

Meanwhile the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and Google Cloud have signed a memorandum of understanding as part of a new agreement to accelerate the adoption of AI in the UK defence sector.

The Technology Secretary unveiled the AI research package in a keynote speech at London Tech Week. Chloe Smith also announced the launch of the UK Geospatial Strategy 2030, which will aim to unlock billions of pounds in economic benefits through harnessing technologies including AI, satellite imaging and real-time data.

“Despite our size as a small island nation, the UK is a technology powerhouse,” said Smith. “The technology landscape, though, is constantly evolving, and we need a tech ecosystem which can respond to those shifting sands, harness its opportunities, and address emerging challenges. The measures unveiled today will do exactly that.

“We’re investing in our AI talent pipeline with a £54m package to develop trustworthy and secure artificial intelligence, and putting our best foot forward as a global leader in tech both now, and in the years to come.”

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The remaining £13m will be used to fund 13 projects based at universities across the UK to develop pioneering AI innovations in sustainable land management, efficient CO2 capture, and improved resilience against natural hazards.

Smith also announced the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology will shortly launch an open call for proposals to pilot new, collaborative approaches to scientific research in the UK, backed by £50m in government funding. 

The money will drive investment and partnership with industry and further afield to fund the ideas and innovations which aren’t currently addressed in the UK research sector.

In March the government published a whitepaper detailing its plan for AI regulation, which was criticised in some quarters for delegating responsibility to a number of existing bodies rather than proposing new tailored regulations.

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Dstl & Google Cloud MOU

The Dstl and Google Cloud MOU is part of a new agreement to accelerate the adoption of AI in the UK defence sector.

The collaboration will focus on 5 key areas: accelerating technology adoption by enabling Dstl to access and utilise Google Cloud’s AI technologies; broadening the supply chain by opening access to, and supporting engagement between, Dstl and the Google Cloud Marketplace; supporting training and upskilling with Google-led learning and development opportunities that are tailored to the defence domain; increasing cross-sector technology transfer by enabling Dstl to benefit from Google Cloud’s technologies across civilian applications and other industries; and sharing new ways of working and proven approaches to creating a ‘world-class’ AI research environment, including tools and infrastructure, technology watch and horizon scanning, and talent attraction and retention.

Dstl chief executive Paul Hollinshead said: “As one of the most transformative and ubiquitous new technologies, AI has enormous potential to transform societies. Dstl’s collaboration with Google Cloud is one of the significant steps Dstl is taking to prioritise research, development, and experimentation of technologies in line with our commitment to safe and responsible AI.”

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