Public Services > Central Government

AI review wants ‘data trusts’ to ensure data exchanges are ‘secure and mutually beneficial’

David Bicknell Published 15 October 2017

Recommendations include making Alan Turing Institute the national institute for AI and data science, and Institute and ICO developing framework to improve AI transparency


The government has published a review of the UK’s artificial intelligence industry that it promised as part of its Digital Strategy in March.

The review, ‘Growing the Artificial Intelligence industry in the UK’ by Dame Wendy Hall, professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Jérôme Pesenti, chief executive of BenevolentTech, reported on how the ‘pioneering technology’ can best thrive and grow in the UK, with an additional remit of informing policymakers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 
An industrial strategy green paper published in January identified AI as a major, high-potential opportunity for the UK to build a significant future sector of its economy, with the government being urged to help the UK become an artificial intelligence leader, to boost productivity, advance health care, improve services for customers and unlock £630bn for the UK economy.

The report makes 18 recommendations for how to make the UK the best place in the world for businesses developing AI to start, grow, and thrive including developing Data Trusts -– proven and trusted frameworks and agreements – to ensure exchanges are secure and mutually beneficial - to facilitate the sharing of data between organisations holding data and organisations looking to use data to develop AI.

The recommendations also include:

  • Skills: increasing the UK’s AI expertise through new initiatives including an industry-funded Masters programme, and conversion courses to bring a broader range of people into the field;
  • Increasing uptake: helping organisations and workers understand how AI can boost their productivity and make better products and services, including public services;
  • Data: ensuring that people and organisations can be confident that use of data for AI is safe, secure and fair by making more data available, including from publicly-funded research; and
  • Research: building on the UK’s strong record in cutting-edge AI research, including making the Alan Turing Institute a national institute for AI.

Discussing the review, Dame Wendy Hall said, “I was very honoured to be asked to co-chair this review at a time when AI is set to make major changes to the way we live and work. I’m particularly keen to ensure that we use it to inform the establishment of initiatives and programmes to help us extract the most value from artificial intelligence for the country; that includes an emphasis on increasing and improving our skill levels to prepare the workforce for the number of jobs the industry will need for the future.
“AI has been around for a very long time as a concept and this latest surge of technological development is likely to see automation continue to escalate and accelerate in every walk of life. Now is the time for us all - scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and the government - to come together and address the issues about how AI is going to impact society and seek ways to ensure that we’re able to deliver the great breakthroughs the technology has the potential to deliver.”

Jérôme Pesenti said, “In our AI review, we focused on recommendations that are both practicable and deliverable. By following these recommendations, Government, Academia and Industry can help strengthen the UK’s position in the global AI market. Our proposals are deliberately specific and boil down to three fundamentals – enable better access to data, create a greater supply of AI skills and promote the uptake of AI. I am looking forward to working with Government, Academia and Industry to drive these changes.” 

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said, “I want the UK to lead the way in Artificial Intelligence. It has the potential to improve our everyday lives - from healthcare to robots that perform dangerous tasks. 
“We already have some of the best minds in the world working on Artificial Intelligence, and the challenge now is to build a strong partnership with industry and academia to cement our position as the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business."
The government said the recommendations will now be considered in discussions towards a potential industrial strategy sector deal between government and the AI industry.

The recommendations in full are:

Recommendations to improve access to data

  • To facilitate the sharing of data between organisations holding data and organisations looking to use data to develop AI, Government and industry should deliver a programme to develop Data Trusts – proven and trusted frameworks and agreements – to ensure exchanges are secure and mutually beneficial.
  • To improve the availability of data for developing AI systems, Government should ensure that public funding for research explicitly ensures publication of underlying data in machine-readable formats with clear rights information, and open wherever possible.
  • To support text and data mining as a standard and essential tool for research, the UK should move towards establishing by default that for published research the right to read is also the right to mine data, where that does not result in products that substitute for the original works. Government should include potential uses of data for AI when assessing how to support for text and data mining.

Recommendations to improve supply of skills

  • Government, industry and academia must embrace the value and importance of a diverse workforce for AI, and should work together to break down stereotypes and broaden participation.
  • Industry should sponsor a major programme of students to pursue Masters level courses in AI, with an initial cohort of 300 students.
  • Universities should explore with employers and students the potential demand for one-year conversion Masters degrees in AI for graduates in subjects other than computing and data science.
  • Government and universities should create, at a minimum, an additional 200 PhD places dedicated to AI at leading universities. As the UK trains and attracts additional academic talent, this number should grow continually year on year.
  • Universities should encourage the development of advanced credit-bearing AI MOOCs and online Continuing Professional Development courses leading to MScs for people with STEM qualifications to gain more specialist knowledge.
  • An International fellowship programme for AI in the UK should be created in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute: the Turing AI Fellowships. This should be supported by a targeted fund for identifying and recruiting the best talent, and by ensuring that the UK is open to any and all of the eligible experts from around the world.

Recommendations to maximise UK AI research

  • The Alan Turing Institute should become the national institute for artificial intelligence and data science, becoming truly national and expanded beyond the current five universities, with a key stated aim that centres its mission on artificial intelligence.
  • Universities should use clear, accessible and where possible common policies and practices for licensing IP and forming spin-out companies.
  • The Alan Turing Institute, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) should work together to coordinate demand for computing capacity for AI research, and negotiate for the UK research community.

Recommendations to support uptake of AI

  • Government should work with industry and experts to establish a UK AI Council to help coordinate and grow AI in the UK.
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Alan Turing Institute should develop a framework for explaining processes, services and decisions delivered by AI, to improve transparency and accountability.
  • The Department for International Trade should expand its current support programme for AI businesses.
  • TechUK should work with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Digital Catapult, and key players in industry sectors, to develop practical guidance on the opportunities and challenges of successful adoption of AI across the UK economy.
  • Government, drawing on the expertise of the Government Digital Service, the Data Science Partnership and experts working with data in other Departments, should develop a programme of actions to prepare the public sector and spread best practice for applying AI to improve operations and services for citizens.
  • Government should ensure that challenges addressed by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) are designed to attract and support applications of AI across the full range of challenge areas and set funded challenges which use public sector data for AI.

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