The UK government has unveiled a £100 million initial investment to establish the Foundation Model Taskforce, with the goal of advancing the country’s capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI) and securing the UK’s position as a science and technology superpower by 2030. The Prime Minister and Technology Secretary revealed that the taskforce will concentrate on developing and adopting safe and reliable foundation models, which are AI systems trained on extensive datasets to perform a wide range of tasks across numerous industries.
The Foundation Model Taskforce will be modeled on the success of the COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce, with a mission to facilitate the safe and reliable use of pivotal AI technologies across the economy and ensure that the UK remains globally competitive in this strategic domain. Foundation models, such as large language models like ChatGPT and Google Bard, are a category of AI systems trained on massive volumes of data, including text, images, video, or audio, to gain broad and sophisticated capabilities across a diverse array of tasks.
With AI set to contribute billions of pounds to the UK GDP, the work of the taskforce will help deliver on the Prime Minister’s priorities to grow the national economy while generating improved outcomes for people across the country through enhanced public services. Research indicates that the widespread adoption of such systems could potentially triple national productivity growth rates.
In sectors like healthcare, this type of AI has tremendous potential to expedite diagnoses, drug discovery, and development. In education, it could revolutionize teachers’ daily work, freeing up their time to focus on delivering excellent teaching. This technology is also predicted to raise global GDP by 7 percent over a decade, making its adoption a vital opportunity for the UK’s economic growth.
To support businesses and public trust in these systems and drive their adoption, the taskforce will work with the sector to develop the safety and reliability of foundation models, both at a scientific and commercial level. The investment will build the UK’s ‘sovereign’ national capabilities, allowing public services to benefit from the transformational impact of this type of AI.
The taskforce will concentrate on opportunities to establish the UK as a world leader in foundation models and their applications across the economy and act as a global standard-bearer for AI safety. The funding will be invested by the Foundation Model Taskforce in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, creating opportunities for domestic innovation. The first pilots targeting public services are expected to launch in the next six months.
The taskforce was announced as part of the Integrated Review Refresh last month and will bring together government and industry experts who will report directly to the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary. This follows last week’s Cabinet meeting, where ministers agreed on the transformative potential of AI, the vital importance of retaining public confidence in its use, and the need for regulation that keeps people safe without preventing innovation.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasized the potential of AI in providing enormous opportunities to grow the economy, create better-paying jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security. He expressed his support for investing in emerging technologies through the new expert taskforce to continue leading the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy.
Science, Innovation, and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan highlighted the transformative impact of responsibly developed cutting-edge AI across nearly every industry. She stressed the need to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer in the future, backing the expert taskforce with the funding required to make the UK’s ambitions for an AI-enabled country a reality and keep the nation at the forefront of emerging technology.
To ensure such leadership, the greatest capability the UK can develop is in the safety and reliability of AI systems. This will ensure that the public and businesses have the trust they need to confidently adopt this technology and fully realize its benefits. The taskforce will prioritize safety and reliability in its efforts to drive AI innovation and adoption.
The taskforce will be led by an expert Chair, who will be announced later in the summer. In the meantime, Matt Clifford, Chair of the Advanced Research and Innovation Agency, will advise the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary on the development of the taskforce while the appointment is ongoing.
Foundation models rely on significant compute power, and this investment comes on top of around £900 million for a new ‘exascale’ supercomputer and a dedicated AI Research Resource to equip the UK with the processing power it needs to support the next generation of AI innovation. The Taskforce will play a crucial role in ensuring the major, multi-year funding announced at the Budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritize and strengthen the UK’s capability in foundation models.
The Taskforce will ensure the UK’s capability in this rapidly developing area is built with safety and reliability at its core, in line with the approach set out in the AI Regulation White Paper published last month.
Doug Gurr, Chair of The Alan Turing Institute, congratulated the government on this exciting investment, which will keep the UK at the cutting edge of transformative technology. He expressed enthusiasm for continuing to work with all relevant partners to help develop breakthrough AI applications in a safe, reliable, trustworthy, and ethical manner.
Marc Warner, CEO of Faculty, noted that artificial intelligence is an epoch-defining technology, which, if deployed safely and responsibly, will revolutionize how we live and work. He stressed the urgency of the UK’s need for effective collaboration between the public and private sectors to seize the vast opportunities presented by foundational models. Warner welcomed the initial funding towards this goal, which will help ensure safe deployment, protect national security, and harness AI’s power to transform public services.
The funding announcement follows the Business Connect event, which brought government and industry together to focus on making Britain the most innovative economy in the world. DSIT Minister of State George Freeman led a panel on the government’s work in digital technology and life sciences and, along with the Chancellor, discussed how these high-priority sectors could help accelerate economic growth across the UK.
The establishment of the Foundation Model Taskforce signals the UK government’s commitment to embracing the transformative potential of AI and ensuring the country’s position as a global leader in this rapidly emerging field. By focusing on safety, reliability, and fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors, the taskforce aims to unlock the full potential of AI, ultimately driving economic growth and improving the lives of people across the nation.
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