‘AI Hub’ introduced – Next step in the UK’s AI Strategy

United Kingdom

Last month the government announced the creation of a new AI Standards Hub (the “Hub”), setting the UK on track to shape and improve global technical standards for artificial intelligence.  The Hub is set to play a key role in contributing to the development of global AI technical standards. This approach can be seen as distinguishing the UK’s approach to the governance of AI compared to other jurisdictions, such as the EU which  is taking a more risk-based approach. The announcement should be considered in the context of new research published on the same date by the Office for Artificial Intelligence (“OAI”) that suggested that more than 1.3 million UK businesses will use AI by 2040 and spending on AI is expected to reach more than £200 billion by the same date.

AI Hub - responsibility

The Hub will be piloted by The Alan Turing Institute (the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence).  The Alan Turing Institute’s goals are to undertake world-class research in data science and artificial intelligence, apply its research to real-world problems, driving economic impact and societal good, lead the training of a new generation of scientists, and shape the public conversation around data and algorithms. The Alan Turing Institute will be supported by the British Standards Institution which is the UK’s National Standards Body and the National Physical Laboratory, the country’s national metrology institute, and backed by the OAI and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

AI Hub and the Strategy

The Hub is part of the UK’s National AI Strategy (“Strategy”), which set out the UK’s ambition to become a world leader in AI through investment, innovation and governance over the next 10 years as summarised in our article here. The creation of the Hub and collaboration across multiple government bodies fits under the second pillar of the Strategy, “ensuring AI benefits all sectors and regions”. As part of the Strategy, the government announced a number of deliverables in the medium term (6-12 months), one of those being the creation of an AI Standards toolkit to engage key stakeholders. We understand that the government is seeking to deliver this through the AI Hub. The announcement follows the launch of “roadmap to an effective AI assurance ecosystem” by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, another key goal emerging from the Strategy, setting out the steps to develop world-leading products and services to verify AI systems and accelerate AI adoption. The two together will play a key role in achieving the Strategy, given that technical standards are important for AI assurance, providing organisations with a common basis for verifying AI.

What does the Hub hope to achieve?

One of the key takeaways from the Strategy is that public trust in AI should be built and maintained through global standards. The Hub will be used to create practical tools for businesses, bringing the UK’s AI community together through a new online platform and developing educational materials to help organisations benefit from AI. As the Strategy showed, there is a gap in global governance of AI, and this will give the UK an opportunity to accelerate the process towards developing AI standards that will be used not only cross-sector in the UK but may inform the AI community globally.

Whilst the Hub references technical standards, this will go further than technical in the traditional sense, also backing socio-technical standards and AI ethics. We understand that the Hub intends to differentiate from other standards emerging from the Strategy. We can expect the Hub to focus on technical standards, whilst legal/regulatory requirements will be considered separately and may emerge from the upcoming  White Paper this year.

The aims of the Hub during the pilot phase are the following:

  1. Tracking AI Standards: 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.

  2. Convening, connecting and community building: Bringing the AI community together through workshops, events and a new online platform to encourage more coordinated engagement in development of standards around the world.

  3. Education, training and professional development: 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.

  4. Thought leadership & international engagement: Exploring international collaboration with similar initiatives to ensure development of technical standards are shaped by a wide range of AI experts, in line with shared values.

Next steps

We understand that one of the workstreams is the development of an “AI Standards Observatory” which aims to develop a repository of AI Standards to signpost future users to the relevant AI standards. The AI Hub intends to working with stakeholders such as the BSI to develop an AI themes search matrix in an attempt to capture all areas of AI standardisation while factoring in the draft EU AI Regulation.

More information on how organisations and stakeholders can join the Hub will be released by the government in due course. We can expect that a series of roundtable meetings will take place, led by The Alan Turing Institute, before the pilot commences to help shape the Hub’s activities. We understand that the Hub welcomes thoughts and collaboration on how it will operate. This includes gathering information on how people would like technical standards to be shaped, one idea being thematically across robustness, security and “explainability”. A strategic priority of the Hub is expected to be how to expand the AI community to non-traditional stakeholders, creating a space to incubate ideas and widen the landscape in developing AI standards.

The authors would like to thank Jessica Wilkinson, trainee solicitor, for her assistance in writing this article.