New UK initiative to shape global standards for artificial intelligence
13 January 2022
The Alan Turing Institute, supported by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), will pilot a new UK government initiative to lead in shaping global technical standards for artificial intelligence.
The new AI Standard Hub will create practical tools for businesses, bring the UK’s AI community together through a new online platform, and develop educational materials to help organisations develop and benefit from global standards. This will help put the UK at the forefront of this rapidly developing area.
The Hub will work to improve the governance of AI, complement pro-innovation regulation and unlock the huge economic potential of these technologies to boost investment and employment now the UK has left the European Union.
BSI, the UK National Standards Body, and NPL, the country’s national metrology institute, will share their world-class expertise in developing standards and research to deliver the pilot with The Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and AI. The hub is backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for AI (OAI).
The move kicks off one part of the UK’s new National AI Strategy, a ten-year plan to strengthen the country’s position as a global science superpower and "harness AI to transform the economy and society while leading governance and standards to ensure everyone benefits”.
DCMS Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp said: “It’s imperative the UK remains at the forefront of this transformative technology which is already improving our lives and has huge potential to create new jobs and wealth.
“Today I’m confirming that the renowned Alan Turing Institute will lead the trial of a new UK programme with support from the British Standards Institution and National Physical Laboratory to help shape and improve the global standards for artificial intelligence.
“It marks the first step in delivering our new National AI Strategy and will develop the tools needed so organisations and consumers can benefit from all the opportunities of AI. We want the UK to lead the world in developing AI standards.”
New research published predicts that the use of AI by businesses will more than double in the next twenty years, with more than 1.3 million UK businesses using artificial intelligence by 2040.
It shows that in 2020, UK businesses spent around £63 billion on AI technology and AI related labour and this is expected to reach more than £200 billion by 2040.
The UK is already successful in this field. According to Tech Nation, the UK now has more than 1,300 AI companies – a 600 percent increase in the number of firms over the last decade. In the same period, venture capital investment rocketed from $120 million to more than $3.4 billion in 2020.
The huge potential of AI technologies to power new firms and revolutionise old ones with improved productivity and more flexible ways of working demonstrates the need for tools to govern its development, ethics and use, including through globally developed technical standards.
In its pilot phase, the new hub will focus on:
• Growing UK engagement to develop global AI standards by bringing together information about technical standards and development initiatives in an accessible, user-friendly and inclusive way.
• Bringing the AI community together through workshops, events and a new online platform to encourage more coordinated engagement in the development of standards around the world.
• Creating tools and guidance for education, training and professional development to help businesses and other organisations engage with creating AI technical standards, and collaborate globally to develop these standards.
• Exploring international collaboration with similar initiatives to ensure the development of technical standards are shaped by a wide range of AI experts, in line with shared values.
Ahead of the pilot’s launch, there will be a series of roundtables with a wide range of organisations led by The Alan Turing Institute to shape the Hub’s activities.
The move follows the launch of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation’s (CDEI) ‘roadmap to an effective AI assurance ecosystem’, which is also part of the National AI Strategy. The roadmap sets out the steps needed to develop world-leading products and services to verify AI systems and accelerate AI adoption. Technical standards are vital for enabling effective AI assurance because they give organisations a common basis for verifying AI.
George Freeman, BEIS Minister for Science, Research and Innovation said: “The transformative impact of AI is quickly becoming central to our economy and society, already playing a key role in everything from climate science and medical diagnostics to factory robotics and climate change mapping.
“The UK is one of the world’s most advanced developers and users of AI.
“The key to building on this is maintaining public trust through leading in global regulation and standards. That’s why I am thrilled to see the esteemed Alan Turing Institute selected to lead the pilot of our AI Standards Hub, helping to shape and strengthen the governance of AI globally while reinforcing the UK’s position at the forefront of AI technology.”
Adrian Smith, Director and Chief Executive of The Alan Turing Institute said: “International standards are set to play an increasingly crucial enabling role in the adoption and effective governance of AI technologies. Given our place at the heart of the UK’s thriving AI ecosystem, I am delighted to see the Turing identified as the home of this important new initiative.
“We look forward to working closely with our partners in establishing the AI Standards Hub, leveraging our expertise and networks to build and engage an inclusive, multi-stakeholder community around AI standardisation.”
Scott Steedman, Director-General, Standards at BSI said: “International standards are a vital tool to help unlock the economic potential of AI, including establishing a common language for all to use. BSI, as the National Standards Body is ideally placed to convene the AI community in the UK to identify and develop good practices for the development, governance and use of AI technologies that will be internationally recognised.
“We look forward to working closely with government, industry, academia, consumer interest groups and our international standards network to ensure that UK-led, globally relevant standards, will underpin and foster the future of AI.”
Dr Peter Thompson FREng, CEO, NPL said: “I am delighted that, following the recommendations made in the National AI Strategy last year, we are now launching the UK’s International AI Standards hub pilot. This coordinated UK effort will strengthen our world leading position and is an important step in supporting research and innovators in this area as well as providing a layer of confidence to those using and interacting with AI.
“As digital technology standards develop at pace it is critical that NPL, as the UK’s National Metrology Institute, applies its expertise to ensure confidence across technologies and the associated data to support a safe and secure digital world. We look forward to working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Office for AI (OAI), BSI and the Alan Turing Institute, to accomplish this.”