UK’s ‘AI Opportunity Forum’ looks to big tech leaders to drive adoption

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Firms including Microsoft, Google, Barclays, and Vodafone have signed up for the UK government's new AI Opportunity Forum, aimed at increasing the adoption of AI in the private sector.

The idea is to team up AI companies with business leaders to boost the adoption of AI, focusing particularly on governance, awareness, and the risks of the technology, along with the availability of data.

"We stand on the cusp of a productivity revolution – one which has the potential to grow the economy in a way we’ve never seen before. So, it’s important we get it right," said prime minister Rishi Sunak.

"This forum builds on the AI Safety Summit – putting the UK at the vanguard of AI innovation to help us safely embrace AI in a way that delivers for British people."

Overseen by technology secretary Michelle Donelan and the prime minister’s special adviser on business and investment, Franck Petitgas, the aim is to share best practice to increase the number of organizations - currently just 10% - that are rated as being fully prepared for AI.

"We want to see organizations across the UK tapping into the transformative power of AI to boost their productivity, unlock new opportunities, and drive growth," Donelan said

"AI develops at an incredible pace, and we’re acting in lockstep to ensure businesses and employees in every sector of our economy can take advantage of this generation-defining technology."

According to government figures, the UK’s AI sector contributes £3.7 billion to the UK economy and employs 50,000 people across the country. 

Google UK managing director Debbie Weinstein said the company's UK Economic Impact Report shows that AI-powered innovation could create over £400 billion in economic value for the UK economy by 2030.


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"We see AI as the biggest technological breakthrough for generations and are ramping our investment in AI because we know this is going to transform how organizations make decisions," said CEO of data analytics form Quantexa.

"Understandably, there are concerns around the associated risks of AI. But, with the safe and ethical adoption of AI technology, there are huge opportunities for UK businesses across industry sectors to accelerate productivity and growth."

The government has placed a strong focus on positioning the country as a global AI leader in recent months, most notably with the AI Safety Summit held at Bletchley Park late last year.

It's also working to accelerate the rollout of AI across the public sector, with a new framework for the responsible use of generative AI for government departments published earlier this month by the Central Digital and Data Office.

"We’re looking forward to working alongside the government to ensure that British businesses are well equipped to harness the benefits of AI," Weinstein said.

"Initiatives like the government’s AI Opportunity Forum are key for unlocking the transformative potential of a technology which has the potential to boost productivity, fuel creativity and drive tech-led growth across a variety of sectors up and down the country."

The forum will hold its first meeting in February, with further meetings taking place bi-monthly.

Emma Woollacott

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