The UK government has announced an initial investment of £100 million to establish a new taskforce responsible for accelerating the country’s capability in rapidly-emerging forms of artificial intelligence (AI). The funding is part of the government’s commitment to establish the UK as a science and technology superpower by 2030, and follows an earlier investment of £900 million into compute technology.
The taskforce will be modelled on the success of the COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce and will focus on developing the safe and reliable use of foundation models, a category of AI systems trained on massive data sets such as text, images, video or audio to gain broad and sophisticated capabilities across many tasks. Large language models like ChatGPT and Google Bard are examples of foundation models.
According to research, the broad adoption of foundation models could triple national productivity growth rates, with AI set to contribute billions of pounds to the UK GDP. In healthcare, for example, this type of AI has the potential to speed up diagnoses, drug discovery and development, while in education it could transform teachers’ day-to-day work and free up their time to focus on delivering excellent teaching.
The taskforce will work with the sector towards developing the safety and reliability of foundation models, both at a scientific and commercial level, in order to support businesses and public trust in these systems and drive their adoption. The investment will also build the UK’s ‘sovereign’ national capabilities so that public services can benefit from the transformational impact of this type of AI.
The taskforce will bring together government and industry experts and will report directly to the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary. It will focus on opportunities to establish the UK as a world leader in foundation models and their applications across the economy, and will act as a global standard bearer for AI safety.
The funding will be invested by the Foundation Model Taskforce in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, to create opportunities for domestic innovation. The first pilots targeting public services are expected to launch in the next six months.
This announcement follows a Cabinet meeting last week where Ministers agreed on the transformative potential of AI, the vital importance of retaining public confidence in its use, and the need for regulation that keeps people safe without preventing innovation. The UK government has made clear its commitment to establish the UK as a leader in AI and to harness the economic and societal benefits that this technology can bring.
The taskforce will be led by an expert Chair, who will be announced later in the summer. Matt Clifford, Chair of the Advanced Research and Innovation Agency, will advise the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary on the development of the taskforce while the appointment is ongoing.
Foundation models rely on significant compute power, and this investment comes on top of around £900 million for a new ‘exascale’ supercomputer and a dedicated AI Research Resource to equip the UK with the processing power it needs to support the next generation of AI innovation. The Taskforce will play a crucial role in ensuring the major, multi-year funding announced at the Budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritise and strengthen the UK’s capability in foundation models.
The Taskforce will ensure the UK’s capability in this rapidly developing area is built with safety and reliability at its core, in line with the approach set out in the AI Regulation White Paper published last month.
We congratulate the government on this exciting investment which will keep the UK at the cutting edge of this transformative technology and look forward to continuing to work with all the relevant partners to help develop breakthrough AI applications in a safe, reliable, trustworthy and ethical way.
Artificial intelligence is an epoch-defining technology, which – if deployed safely and responsibly – will revolutionise how we live and work. To reap the rewards and manage the risks, the UK urgently needs the public and private sector to work effectively together to seize the vast opportunities from foundational models. It is welcome to see initial funding towards this goal, which will help ensure safe deployment and protect national security, whilst harnessing AI’s power to transform public services.