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Rannia Leontaridi to step down as Office for AI director

One of the founding directors of the Office for Artificial Intelligence is set to leave the organisation less than two years after setting it up.

Rannia Leontaridi announced on Friday (10 January) that she was stepping down from the unit to take on an “important new role” within the civil service.

The senior Whitehall official, who was awarded an OBE in 2016 for her contributions to public service, launched the Office for AI in April 2018 alongside the culture department’s digital policy director Gila Sacks.

The office is a joint venture between the departments for business and culture, with Leontaridi representing the former. She has also been serving as the department for business’s director of business growth.

The government launched the office following a review of the UK’s AI strategy in 2017. It oversees the development of policies aimed at helping the UK to build the skills and capabilities needed to embrace AI technologies.

In a tweet announcing the news on Friday morning, Leontaridi said: “After almost 4 years as the Director for Business Growth @beisgovuk & Director @OfficeforAI I am stepping down in order to pursue a new important role in HM Government.

“Thank you for support & advice & look forward to future successes in tech & our thriving businesses!”

Leontaridi is expected to announce her new job next week.

The government has taken a number of steps over the last two years to stimulate the UK’s AI sector. It has launched a new AI sector deal, funded 1,000 new AI PhD places and also invested in new university courses.

But the government has also faced questions over how it intends to use artificial intelligence within Whitehall itself. As NS Tech reported last month, it has blocked the full publication of a review carried out last year to assess the ways AI could transform the delivery of government services.

Exclusive: government blocks full publication of AI review