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UK commits more than £100m for AI research and regulation

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The investment comes as EU countries officially came to an agreement on some details of the AI Act last week.

The UK government has plans to set aside more than £100m to support the creation of nine new research hubs across the country focused on developing responsible AI.

According to a statement published today (6 February) from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, the hubs will support UK AI expertise in harnessing the technology across areas including healthcare, chemistry and mathematics.

Part of the investment, which has been announced as part of the government’s response to an AI regulation white paper consultation last year will also be used to support regulators with the skills and tools they need to “address the risks and opportunities” of AI.

“The fund will help regulators develop cutting-edge research and practical tools to monitor and address risks and opportunities in their sectors, from telecoms and healthcare to finance and education,” the statement reads, giving the example of new technical tools for examining AI systems.

While many UK regulators have inevitably already acted in the space of AI, the UK government wants to build on this by further equipping them for the age of AI as use of the technology ramps up.

“The UK’s agile regulatory system will simultaneously allow regulators to respond rapidly to emerging risks, while giving developers room to innovate and grow in the UK.”

As a result, regulators such as Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been asked by the UK government to publish a plan by 30 April detailing how they intend to regulate AI over the coming year.

Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for Science, Innovation and Technology, said that she is “personally driven” by AI’s potential to transform public services and the economy for the better by leading to new medical treatments and skills of the future.

“AI is moving fast, but we have shown that humans can move just as fast,” she said. “By taking an agile, sector-specific approach, we have begun to grip the risks immediately, which in turn is paving the way for the UK to become one of the first countries in the world to reap the benefits of AI safely.”

In late November, Microsoft committed to investing £2.5bn in the UK over the next three years to expand its AI data centre footprint in the country and foster research in the area.

The investment will see Microsoft bring more than 20,000 of its most advanced graphics processing units (GPUs) to the UK by 2026, which will fuel the country’s progress in the development of machine learning and AI models.

Earlier that month, Sunak hosted the world’s first major AI Safety Summit in the UK to promote greater international collaboration on the emerging technology. This led to the Bletchley Declaration, an agreement between the world’s major powers to work together in regulating AI.

Last week, EU countries officially came to an agreement on the details of the AI Act, has been in development since 2021 and was passed by the EU Parliament last June.

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