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Government AI Council includes representatives from big tech, academia and the public sector

The government has unveiled the membership of its first AI Council as it attempts to position the UK as a leader in the burgeoning sector. The panel includes representatives from Google, Microsoft and Amazon, as well as data protection groups, academia and the public sector.

“[Our AI Council will leverage] the knowledge of experts from a range of sectors to provide leadership on the best use and adoption of artificial intelligence across the economy,” the digital secretary Jeremy Wright (pictured) will say in a speech at Viva Tech in Paris on Thursday (16 May).

“Under the leadership of Tabitha Goldstaub the Council will represent the UK AI Sector on the international stage and help us put in place the right skills and practices to make the most of data-driven technologies.”

It is expected that the council will eventually draw together a wider group of representatives to address issues facing the UK’s AI sector, such as data and ethics, adoption, skills and diversity.

The creation of the panel represents just the latest in a series of measures taken by the government to nurture the sector, having faced criticism for not doing enough to protect UK tech in the wake of Brexit.

The announcement comes a year after the launch of the AI deal, which unlocked £1bn of funding just weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a €1.5 billion pot to make France the European leader in the technology.

Tim Clement-Jones, the chair of the House of Lord’s first AI select committee, had previously warned that the UK’s AI strategy lagged behind South Korea, Canada and Germany’s, as well as the US and China’s.

Dame Wendy Hall, the co-author of the government’s AI report, said it was “wonderful to see the recommendations of the review […] coming into reality”. “AI is hugely important to the UK’s growth and global reputation, and the work of the council will seek to improve the understanding of AI across the UK to encourage diversity across the sector.”

As NS Tech reported, Jerome Pesenti told the House of Lord’s select committee in December 2017 that he and Dame Wendy Hall were pressured by civil servants into limiting the review’s ambition, particularly around the number of new PhD positions that should be created.

“There was a question – should you put the big number first or should you say you start with 300? There we got a lot of back and forth,” he said.

The review ultimately recommended that 200 PhD positions should be created in the first year, with a further 300 industry-funded masters places. It added that the number of positions should grow year on year, but did not specify by how many. The government has since pledged to create 16 new Centres for Doctoral Training which will result in 1,000 new PhDs over the next five years.

In addition to the AI Council, which is designed to be industry led, the government has established an Office for Artificial Intelligence, which manages government policy for the sector, and a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

Writing for NS Tech today, Goldstaub says: “This technology will be one of the most important and beneficial breakthroughs of our time. As long as we answer the age-defining question of how to make sure these technologies are used responsibly, we can realise the full social and economic benefits.

“As such, it is vital that the AI community, including industry, academics and the public sector, come together in the public interest to support this mission, for the benefit of all of society. This is exactly what the AI Council […] aims to achieve.”

The full list of members of the council is as follows:

Professor Adrian Smith – Institute Director and Chief Executive, Alan Turing Institute

Alice Bentinck – Cofounder, Entrepreneur First

Alice Webb – Director for Children’s and Education at the BBC

Ann Cairns – Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard

Professor Chris Bishop – Microsoft Technical Fellow and Director of the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge, UK

Dr Claire Craig – Chief Science Policy Officer, Royal Society

Professor David Lane – Professor & Founding Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Kriti Sharma – AI for good founder

Marc Warner – CEO, Faculty

Professor Maire O’Neill – Professor at Queen’s University Belfast

Sir Mark Walport – Chief Executive, UKRI

Martin Tisne – Managing Director, Luminate

Mustafa Suleyman – Co-Founder, Deepmind

Professor Neil Lawrence – Professor at the University of Sheffield and Director, Machine Learning at Amazon

Professor Nick Jennings – Vice-Provost Research and Enterprise, Imperial College

Dame Patricia Hodgson – Member of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information and Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

Paul Clarke – Chief Technology Officer, Ocado

Professor Pete Burnap – Professor of Data Science & Cybersecurity at Cardiff University

Priya Lakhani – Founder of edtech AI platform CENTURY Tech

Rachel Dunscombe – CEO, NHS Digital Academy

Dame Wendy Hall – Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton

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