UK to develop AI strategy as part of tech sector push

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UK politics & policy updates

Ministers are set to launch plans to develop British interests in artificial intelligence as part of a wider government push to support the tech sector this week.

The AI strategy will include a framework of ethics and principles that will contribute to regulatory and policy approaches for developing and deploying advanced machine learning.

Ministers will use the document to set out ambitions for the UK to develop AI technologies, according to people familiar with its contents, including through skills training and access to finance for start-ups.

The strategy will also set out ways to encourage businesses to adopt advances in AI to improve productivity. The document will propose a white paper next year to bring together these plans for consultation. 

The AI plan comes ahead of a new space strategy later this month similarly designed to foster UK industries in the sector, and forms part of a broader push by ministers to develop the next wave of innovative businesses to compete with global tech rivals from the US and China.

The plans are expected to be announced on Monday at London tech week by newly appointed culture and digital secretary Nadine Dorries. She will say that she intends to “push our pro-tech agenda to even greater heights and make sure every corner of the UK benefits from the tech revolution”.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson will also declare that the UK’s “tech revolution is creating jobs, driving growth and boosting investment across the country” as part of the week’s tech events. 

“We must continue to research, build and innovate as we cement our place as a world leader in tech and push forward towards another record breaking year,” he will say. 

Data published on Monday will show that the UK is on course for a record year of tech investment in 2021, with £13.5bn committed to end of June across 1,700 companies. This is already more than the amount raised in all of 2020.

The UK now has 105 ‘unicorn’ companies worth $1bn or more, with 20 created in the past six months, including Tractable, which produces AI for damage appraisal by insurance companies, Zego, an insurance company, and Depop, a fashion app. In comparison, it took 24 years from 1990 to 2014 to create the UK’s first 20 unicorns.

A new report from the Digital Economy Council and Tech Nation, the government-backed industry lobby group, shows that the number of tech vacancies is now 42 per cent higher than it was before the pandemic, with one in eight jobs in the UK now defined as being in the tech sector.

On Monday, professional services company Cognizant will announce that it is creating an additional 2,500 tech jobs in Leeds and Northern Ireland by 2025.

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