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GovTech Catalyst to promote AI in public sector



Two new bodies to collaborate on development of artificial intelligence for public services as part of new UK Industrial Strategy

The new GovTech Catalyst is set to work with a Government backed Office for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ensure the public sector can benefit from the development of the relevant technologies.

It will be accompanied by efforts to speed up the adoption of AI at scale, focused in six priority business areas: cyber security, life sciences, construction, manufacturing, energy and agricultural technology.

In turn, it will be part of a larger programme of Grand Challenges outlined in the new Industrial Strategy white paper, published yesterday by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, aimed at building on strengths and overcoming weaknesses in the rapidly developing areas of the UK economy.

These will involve an invitation to business, academia and civil society to work together to develop new technologies and industries.

Placing the UK at the forefront of the development of AI and the “data revolution” is one of the four challenges outlined in the strategy.

Front door

It will involve a significant role for the GovTech Catalyst, the creation of which was announced earlier this month as part of a £20 million initiative to support the development of new technologies in public services. It will act as a ‘front door’ for tech firms, giving them a point where they can present ideas for new digital solutions for public services.

Its work with the Office for AI will be an element of the challenge to make the UK a world leader in AI and the “data revolution”, along with support for the Digital Catapult’s Machine Learning Garage programme, efforts to train professionals from different industries in how they could apply AI, and promoting awareness of advanced data analytic technologies.

The strategy also points to the role of a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation in the field, and plans to work with industry to set up data trusts for the easy and secure sharing of data.

In addition, detailed recommendations to strengthen the UK’s position as a global centre for cyber security will be published in the next six months.

It is one of four areas for development highlighted in the report, along with new mobility solutions, clean growth and dealing with an ageing society. It also comes a few weeks after an official report on the future of AI recommended there should be an effort to promote its use in public services and outlined steps to foster the growth of the technology.

5G and full fibre

Other steps highlighted in the new strategy, some of which have previously been announced, included more than £1 billion in public investment to improve the country’s digital infrastructure, including £176 million for 5G networks and £200 million for local areas to encourage the roll out of full fibre broadband.

Commenting on the strategy, Business Secretary Greg Clark (pictured) said: “The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies.

"The UK is well placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries.

“The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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