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Ed Stevenson

Published on

October 23, 2023



The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is a topic discussed across boardrooms, dining tables, park benches and pubs. I’m sure most of you have had a conversation about AI in the last few months. Some of you will have used ChatGPT. Despite economic challenges, investors are putting their money into AI developers and innovators.

Businesses and governments are trying to capture the commercial and reputational opportunity of AI. So, I read with intrigue the proposition for a national AI system and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to host a global AI summit in the UK. It made me think more about the nation’s role in the global technology landscape. Are we carving a new national technological identity? 

In search of an identity

Political and business leaders have made various attempts to make the UK relevant to the global technology discourse.  

The recommendation of creating a sovereign AI system, BritGPT, came from a political thinktank. Its inspiration came from a standpoint of intellectual protectionism which has seen the UK lose some of its most prominent tech businesses to foreign investors. The report had some strong arguments such as UK innovation and focusing on applying AI to serve the greater – not the profitable – good in healthcare and social care.  

However, there are risks in creating any sovereign technology. For one thing, it could silo Britain out of the international AI community and force foreign businesses to be more cautious in their collaboration with the UK.  

No longer a focus problem

Despite the current economic challenges, the Government is investing £100million into an AI taskforce. In previous years, the UK has been a priority region for technology investors. It’s often at the top of the global ranking when it comes to funding received. 

What is different now is there is a focus. A particular type of technology where both the private sector and Government are aligned. This renewed focus brings a clarity of thought not only to those who live and work in the UK, but also to overseas companies and political establishments. We’re seeing the immediate impact with pre-eminent AI innovators such as OpenAI opening its first international office in London. This adds further credibility to the country’s technology talent. It gives validation that the UK’s pro-innovation AI policy is welcomed by businesses.  

Acknowledge the past, but create the future

 The message is clear: the UK wants to be the global go-to region for AI. The government has taken the first step to leadership by outlining the twelve major AI risks we face today. Momentum is building as leading businesses are buying into the vision that the UK will become a hotbed for AI innovation. What comes with innovation should be a set of guiding principles where the ethical use of AI is explained. Geographically and politically, the UK is in a great position to be a broker in helping coordinate the disparate regulatory efforts by European, Asian and American countries. 

There is certainly more to do and only time will tell how successful the UK is in becoming the leading light in AI. All eyes will be on the UK in the Autumn as we host the global AI summit in November. There is a rich history when we think about the UK’s contribution to early AI. This country is a fitting home to have the first global conversation on making AI safer.  

Now it is the time to look to the future. The smart combination of medium, message and momentum can create a new national technological identity. It can help boost the local economy for generations to come.  


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