Institutions of Innovation: Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation
'Institutions of Innovation' is a new series of monthly interviews with the institutions driving the UK’s innovation policy.
The series will begin to piece together the UK's evolving innovation landscape, setting out who the key actors are, what they do, where they sit and how industry can best engage with them, including through techUK.
This month's responses have been provided by Felicity Burch, Executive Director of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI).
I see the CDEI’s work involves “enabling the trustworthy use of data and AI.” What does this mean in practice?
The CDEI enables innovation that wouldn’t otherwise happen by giving organisations the tools and confidence to invest in AI and data responsibly. Even among organisations already using data-driven tech and AI, one in five (19%) still see uncertainty about regulation as a barrier to innovation.
One way in which we address this is through our work on standards and guidance, which help to remove uncertainty and upskill teams. We also enable new methods of data sharing by pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible, for example through our Privacy-Enhancing Technologies and Fairness Innovation challenges.
Furthermore, the CDEI ensures that planned innovation is done responsibly and in a way that both addresses public concerns and reflects public values. It’s crucial that innovation is inclusive and delivers benefits across the UK.
Our Public Attitudes work underpins much of what we do at the CDEI. For example, our world-leading Algorithmic Transparency Recording Standard was informed by deep public engagement to understand what information people require about the way in which algorithms work. This enables us to create a tool that is transparent in a way that is meaningful to people.
What kind of relationship does the CDEI have with its closest institutional neighbours?
As part of DSIT, we work extremely closely with policy teams across the department to operationalise policy. Two examples of such policies are the National AI Strategy and National Data strategy. We work with the UK’s Catapults, along with UKRI, on specific challenges, such as the Fairness Innovation Challenge. These are key stakeholders who regularly support us when we’re talking to industry.
Beyond DSIT, what are the key departments that the CDEI works most closely with?
Given our partnerships-based approach, the CDEI has many key collaborations with a range of government departments. We work very closely with the Cabinet Office via our partnership with Central Digital and Data Office on the Algorithmic Transparency Recording Standard, but also have worked with the Ministry of Defence, Department for Education, and Department for Transport (via the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles), to name a few.
More broadly, how does the CDEI work with external stakeholders, including organisations across the UK, to drive innovation?
In lots of different ways. For example, we work very closely with industry through the AI Assurance Programme to understand their needs and requirements of government.
A great example of this is our industry temperature check report. Published in December 2022, this explored the barriers and enablers to AI assurance and set out clear interventions that the government and others can subsequently make. From this, we developed, alongside techUK, our Portfolio of Assurance Techniques. This portfolio is useful for anybody involved in designing, developing, deploying, or procuring AI-enabled systems. It showcases examples of AI assurance techniques being used in the ‘real world’ to support the development of trustworthy AI.
We also work with different industry bodies. This includes collaborating with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation to develop a bespoke set of industry-led guidance.
Finally, we regularly involve experts in our work to ensure it’s as robust as possible. For example, we worked with relevant experts at universities to develop our Responsible Innovation in Self-Driving Vehicles report in collaboration with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
Can you name any examples of how the CDEI has worked with techUK in the past? If so, what have you enjoyed, valued, or learned during the process?
techUK are important partners for the CDEI, helping us to understand both industry needs and best practice. The CDEI has consistently engaged with techUK’s members, particularly on AI assurance. In fact, in 2020 we launched the AI Assurance Roadmap at techUK’s Digital Ethics Summit, the next iteration of which will take place in December.
More recently, last July we ran a symposium alongside techUK. This provided us with valuable insights into how the UK’s technology industry views AI assurance techniques and technical standards. Crucially, it then resulted in the CDEI creating the Portfolio of AI Assurance Techniques, which we launched with techUK. It’s always enjoyable working with both techUK and its over 1000 industry members (some of which have featured as case studies in the Portfolio!) as they have lots of expertise and provide valuable opinions.
How can techUK’s 1000+ industry members best engage with the CDEI?
techUK’s members can learn more about the CDEI’s current activity by monitoring our social channels, our CDEI blog and the GOV.UK website. On each of these we regularly publish updates on our programmes of work, plus they provide a useful medium through which industry can reach out to the CDEI if they see an opportunity to participate in what we’re up to.
Our other main strand of engagement with techUK and its members involves delivering workshops and launching CDEI products, including the AI assurance roadmap and the Portfolio of AI Assurance Techniques. We’re very keen to build upon this strong track record of engagement.
What is the CDEI’s long-term vision for the UK’s innovation landscape? Are there any areas in which working with industry will be particularly crucial?
The CDEI aims to make it easier for organisations to innovate in a responsible way. To do that, we must understand the challenges that businesses face when they're developing and adopting new technologies. Given the pace of innovation and technological advancement, it's essential that we regularly and effectively engage industry whenever possible.
We also know that industry is actively investing in solutions and tools to make AI safer. As a result, we want to continue to engage with the sector to understand both emerging best practice and what tools will be most effective at driving responsible innovation.
Finally, what is the CDEI’s main priority over the next 12 months?
Our key priority is working across government and industry to drive increased uptake of tools that will enable the use and proliferation of trustworthy AI. We look forward to continuing to engage with techUK on this!
You can find out more about the CDEI by visiting their website here.
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techUK – Supercharging UK Tech and Innovation
The opportunities of innovation are endless. Automation, IoT, AI, Edge, Quantum, Drones and High Performance Computing all have the power to transform the UK. techUK members lead the development of these technologies. Together we are working with Government and other stakeholders to address tech innovation priorities and build an innovation ecosystem that will benefit people, society, economy and the planet - and supercharge the UK as a global leader in tech and innovation.
For more information, or to get in touch, please visit our Innovation Hub and click ‘contact us’.