UK needs "regulatory certainty" to become global AI leader

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Founders Forum Group has called for greater “regulatory certainty” to ensure the UK can position itself as a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI). 

The call for clarity was made in an open letter penned to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the run up to the highly anticipated AI Safety Summit. 

Executives from more than a dozen companies, including Faculty, Mind Foundry, and Stability AI, have pledged their support for the letter. 

Signatories of the open letter said the country will require a more concise, detailed regulatory framework to balance safety and innovation moving forward. 

"Ensuring regulatory efforts are focused on outcomes (or use cases) gives the regulation the best chance to be close to the end user and to protect the rights of the end user whilst allowing applications to be created in the UK without unnecessary legislative burden," the letter reads.

The open letter suggested that Brexit could be a positive factor and allow UK regulations to be tailored to the requirements and use cases of the UK market. 

The call to action comes as lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have been pursuing their own approach to AI regulation in recent months. 

Regulators in both the US and EU have appeared to adopt a different approach in terms of the severity of proposed legislation, while the UK has been keen to maintain a balanced approach

EU lawmakers, for example, have been criticized repeatedly for what some industry stakeholders have described as a crackdown on AI innovation that could harm long-term success.

Last week, Sunak said the government has no plans to “rush” the introduction of legislation and avoid impeding on the growth of the UK’s burgeoning AI industry. 

UK government can “lead by example” with AI

The open letter also called for the government to “lead by example” and accelerate the adoption of AI products and services in government departments. 

To achieve this, the letter argues the government should draw upon the breadth of expertise already available in the UK’s tech industry, which boasts a raft of innovative AI startups


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Reduce risk and securely support their extended workforces


This, the group said, will require a concerted collaborative effort between government and industry, greater investment, and a simplified procurement process for low-risk use cases to drive adoption. 

“The UK government should commit resources to leverage the rich homegrown AI solutions from innovative UK startups and scaleups,” the letter reads. 

“This will enhance public services through better user experience and attainment of operational efficiencies, give the public sector greater experience using AI, which will inform how it regulates it, and deliver impactful business to the UK’s innovative wave of AI SMEs.”

Harnessing public data

In a controversial move, the letter called for the UK to capitalize on datasets from the likes of the NHS, BBC and Companies House. 

The group argued that the value of these datasets isn’t being fully harnessed and will be gradually eroded over time if the government isn’t quick to act. 

Previous examples in which industry has effectively harnessed public data, such as open banking practices in the financial services sector, were specifically highlighted as a use case in this instance. 

“The UK government should urgently take the lead in creating and providing high-quality, curated, open training datasets,” the letter states. 

The letter acknowledged that this could raise concerns over privacy, copyright, licensing, bias, and ethical issues. However, it suggested that datasets should still be made available to UK companies and universities, with the data stored onshore.

Results of any projects should be open-sourced and any moves to harness public data should be approached with a “sharing of value so that it is not all captured by the private sector”. 

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.