techUK recommendations accepted by Government in Sir Patrick Vallance Digital Technologies Review

The Government has accepted the recommendations of a review into Digital Technologies from the National Technology Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, including a number of key asks from techUK members.

In his 2022 Autumn Statement the Chancellor commissioned a review of the UK’s regulatory landscape for emerging technologies from the Government’s National Technology Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.

The review was conducted at speed with close engagement with industry, including techUK. Sir Patrick’s Pro-innovation Regulation of Technologies Review reported alongside the March 2023 budget.

In the March Budget the Chancellor announced that the Government would accept all 9 of the recommendations from the Sir Patrick Vallance review. If taken forward the recommendations could resolve key areas where Government policy is not clear and unlock private investment into the UK.

Some of the key victories are the reform of the Computer Misuse Act (1990), AI sandboxing, and jumpstarting conversations around industry’s access to data, among others. While on the whole these are positive recommendations there remain some outstanding questions that Government and industry will have to resolve at speed.

There is the potential for certain recommendations to create unintended negative consequences for industry. Areas that can potentially go wrong for Government’s implementation of these recommendations include: ignoring a broader scope for text and data mining (TDM); the potential for lack of effective industry engagement in the implementation of AI sandboxing or facilitating industry access to data; and creating damaging guidance for AI as a Service (AIaaS).

Additionally, there are specific areas of industry advocacy that were not included in the recommendation and that techUK will work to engage around with Government—including: additional transportation areas, satellite debris, and energy support for telecommunications network operators.

Overall, the review signals that the Government is taking the right mindset and can provide the support that the digital technologies sector needs to thrive.

Below is techUK’s analysis of key recommendation found in the digital technologies portion of Sir Patrick Vallance’s review.

You can read the full review here and reach techUK's analysis of the March 2023 Budget here.


Recommendation 1: Government should work with regulators to develop a multi-regulator sandbox for AI to be in operation within the next six months.

techUK is supportive of the multi-regulator AI sandbox. Sandboxing is a key tool for enabling industry to test new, innovative products and services in a safe and secure environment. However how exactly this is put into practice will be key.

AI as a technology can typically span multiple regulatory remits, and therefore, creating a multi-regulator sandbox is a step in the right direction toward enabling greater cross-regulatory coordination and collaboration in areas where regulatory uncertainty currently exists.

For this initiative to be successful, the Digital Regulatory Cooperation Forum (DRCF) will require greater capacity and resourcing to effectively play a convening role and bring in other relevant regulators.

As highlighted in the Sir Patrick Vallance report, techUK would strongly support the recommendation that the advice and lessons learnt from regulatory experimentation are shared with the wider market to benefit the industry as a whole.


Recommendation 2: Government should announce a clear policy position on the relationship between intellectual property law and generative AI to provide confidence to innovators and investors.

The second recommendation in the review announces a clear policy position on the relationship between intellectual property law and generative AI. This is an area the Intellectual Property Office has tried to address in its 2022 consultation on AI and IP: copyright and patents. It soon became apparent that this is a complex issue and Minister George Freeman acknowledged the need to “engage seriously, cross-party and with industry, through the IPO to ensure that we can… frame proposals that will command the support required.”

techUK advocates for an appropriate amount of time to get this consultative process right; focusing on text and data mining (TDM) across AI more broadly rather than specific technologies, such as Generative AI. In addition, proposals such as watermarking for attribution and recognition of altered images, require further consultation, particularly on the merits and challenges when it comes to practical application.


Recommendation 3: Facilitate greater industry access to public data, and prioritise wider data sharing and linkage across the public sector, to help deliver the government’s public services transformation programme.

Facilitating greater industry access to public data in a secure and ethical way is key to helping to deliver the government’s public services transformation programme. To ensure progress in this area, the government must build on previous government initiatives such as the National Data Strategy, whilst also leveraging the use of effective, existing data exchange tools such as privacy-enhancing technologies and data intermediaries. The success of this recommendation also heavily relies on building public trust and confidence in the use of data for these purposes. This requires ongoing efforts for greater public understanding and engagement in this area.


Recommendation 4: The government should bring forward the Future of Transport Bill to unlock innovation across automated transport applications.

techUK is very pleased to see the introduction of the Future of Transport Bill. This is a clear win for members and a welcome recognition from Sir Patrick Vallance of the importance of the transport sector in UK innovation and the associated need for governing frameworks.


Other recommendations:

Drones - Increasing collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to establish an operating standard for drones, empower the CAA to regulate beyond visual line of sight, and amend Ocfom/CAA regulation to allow the use of UAVs/Drones/High-altitude platform station (HAPS) systems to act as radio repeaters.

The Government will work with industry to establish publicly-owned test sites regarding the operating standard recommendation.


Data -  Encouraging the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to update guidance to clarify organisation’s status relating to AI as a Service (AIaaS).

This recommendation suggests that the ICO should update its guidance to clarify when an organisation is a controller, joint controller or processor for processing activities relating AIaaS. The importance of correctly defining data processors and data controllers in AI is of course vital; however, this is a very complex and nuanced issue.

The assumption that those who train AI models also own the data used in that process and determine the ultimate purpose of the training, and are therefore can be deemed a data controller, is not correct.

For example, in a situation where a cloud provider trains and deploys AI solutions (as a service) on a data set delivered by their customers—given the cloud provider does not know to whom the personal data belong to—the cloud providers cannot be a controller and therefore would be unable to fulfil almost every data subjects’ rights that controllers are required to meet.

The unintended consequences of getting this wrong could be hugely damaging to the AI industry and market in the UK. techUK would therefore recommend that the ICO should conduct a detailed and full consultation process bringing together industry and stakeholders to consider this issue in depth.


Space and Satellite Tech - Implementing a variable liability approach to granting licenses by June 2023.

techUK and industry welcome the recommendation to streamline launch regulation and licensing for the sector, a point which techUK advocated for in its response to the review.

This recommendation puts the UK closer to alignment with international standards, as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is similarly reviewing their licensing and satellite filings process to accommodate thousands of new, low-Earth orbit satellites that are expected to go into space in the coming years. By decreasing barriers between ITU and UK regulatory cohesiveness, the UK becomes an increasingly attractive hub for international companies and lessens the burden on the pre-existing domestic industry.


Cyber Security - Amending the Computer Misuse Act (1990) (CMA) to include a statutory public interest defence.

This recommendation from the Government was a key victory for industry, which have long been calling for this change. techUK worked closely with membership to demonstrate the need to amend the CMA to unlock restrictions on the domestic cyber security industry. With the announced acceptance of the recommendations, the UK’s cyber security industry can become truly competitive on the global stage. This recommendation will also provide tangible economic benefits, with CyberUp’s research contributing to estimates of an additional 6,200 mostly high-skilled jobs and an additional £1.6 billion added in annual sector revenue.


Emerging Technologies -  Avoiding regulating emerging technologies too early while continuing engagement on safety, risk and benefits of innovation while building regular knowledge and capacity.

This recommendation supports techUK’s advocacy around emerging technologies—which has been centred around developing a pro-innovation approach and the benefits for industry from increased knowledge and capacity in regulatory bodies.

To successfully implement this recommendation, the Government will need to prioritise increased collaboration between regulatory bodies and providing adequate resourcing to regulators. These are essential for a growth mindset that is agile and able to work effectively with industry with the rapidly changing nature of emerging technologies.


Areas for further work:

Though techUK welcomes much of the recommendations and the tangible wins for industry that were included, there remain a few additional areas that the Government should continue to look to get right. These include:

  • Transportation: the Government should seek to improve rail industry technology adoption, regulate micro mobility, promote automated logistics, and support deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure.
  • Space and satellite technology: the Government should address the critical issue of space debris and sustainability, as these topics continue to increase in regulatory importance.
  • Digital Infrastructure: The Government risks excluding key telecommunications network operators from participation in the Energy Intensive Industries (EII) scheme, which risk increasing the burden on critical components of UK infrastructure.


What’s next:

For this review to truly be a success, the Government will have to collaborate closely with industry on key areas of the review.

techUK looks forward to continued Government engagement on AI sandboxing; TDM across a broad spectrum of AI and other relevant AI proposals; industry access to data; the Future of Transport Bill; drones; AIaaS; space and satellite technology; cyber security; and the future of emerging technologies.


Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Associate Director, Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID, techUK

Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme. 

Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.

Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.    

Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.

[email protected]
020 7331 2019

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Neil Ross

Neil Ross

Associate Director, Policy, techUK

As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads on techUK's public policy work in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments aiming to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop a tech business.

Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input into the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations and economic policy. Alongside his role leading techUK's public policy work Neil also acts as a spokesperson for techUK often appearing in the media and providing evidence to a range of Parliamentary committees.

In 2023 Neil was listed by the Politico newspaper as one of the '20 people who matter in UK tech' and has regularly been cited as a key industry figure shaping UK tech policy. 

[email protected]

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