UK Government starts to recruit Incubator for AI team

The Houses of Parliament photographed from across the River Thames with Westminster Bridge in the foreground
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UK government is building a new Incubator for AI team to encourage the adoption of AI across government services.

In a speech to a government training conference on programming, AI, and data science, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said there were enormous opportunities for the public sector to use AI to transform its processes and improve efficiency.

Dowden highlighted the government's trial of 'AI red boxes', suggesting that AI, rather than civil servants, could summarize and compile official documents.

"The potential productivity benefits from applying these technologies to routine tasks across the public sector are estimated to be worth billions," he said.

"The UK is already leading the way: Ranked third in the Government AI Readiness Index and attracting £18 billion of private investment since 2016. Traditionally, though, the public sector has not been the fastest adopter. But with AI it doesn’t have to be that way."

There are plans to upskill thousands of civil servants in areas such as programming, engineering, data science and machine learning. Training for civil servants is already being delivered by the ONS Data Science Campus, One Big Thing, and Evidence House, with these initiatives to be supported by i.AI engineers and developers through a series of bootcamps, seminars and hackathons.

Meanwhile, on a new website – – the UK government is now advertising for an initial 30 roles for technical AI experts, program managers, product manager,s and engagement specialists. The postings include AI engineers, cloud platform engineers and data engineers, with salaries ranging from £64,700 to £149,990. 

"One of their first tasks will be to assess which government systems have data curated in the right way to take advantage of AI and which systems need updating before that full potential can be harnessed," said Dowden.

"I think of the potential of this work, from correspondence to call handling, from health care to welfare. I don’t mean replacing real people with robots, or adding to the frustrations of dealing with government. I mean removing the things that annoy people most in their dealings with officialdom – namely the time it takes to do things quickly."

A secure, shared data infrastructure for government is expected to eliminate the need for individual service areas to build their own, which the government acknowledges often results in disjointed services, extra costs and greater risk.

The team will also develop and offer shared AI infrastructure for testing and development purposes, saying the aim is to improve efficiency and collaboration among government agencies and evaluate the usefulness of AI solutions being deployed across government.

Earlier this year, the government announced plans to 'parachute in' tech experts from the private sector, with a series of secondment programmes now under way. 

Emma Woollacott

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