22 Sep 2021

UK National AI Strategy launched today

Summary of major announcements from the UK Government's National AI Strategy.

The UK Government has today launched its first National AI Strategy.

The aim of this Strategy is set out a ten-year plan to make Britain a global AI superpower by focusing on three key pillars:

  1. Investing in and planning for the long term needs of the AI ecosystem to continue our leadership as a science and AI superpower;
  2. Supporting the transition to an AI-enabled economy, capturing the benefits of innovation in the UK, and ensuring AI benefits all sectors and regions;
  3. Ensuring the UK gets the national and international governance of AI technologies right to encourage innovation, investment, and protect the public and our fundamental values.

The goals of this Strategy are that the UK:

  • Experiences a significant growth in both the number and type of discoveries that happen in the UK, and are commercialised and exploited here;
  • Benefits from the highest amount of economic and productivity growth due to AI; and
  • Establishes the most trusted and pro-innovation system for AI governance in the world.

The Strategy highlights a number key actions for the short (next 3 months), medium (next 6 months) and long term (next 12 months and beyond), see page 6, here.

Below is a summary of some of the major announcements made:

  • The Strategy aims to position the UK as global leader in the governance of AI technologies. Working with the AI ecosystem the Office for AI will develop a pro-innovation national position on governing and regulating AI, which will be set out in a White Paper in early 2022. According to DCMS Minister, Chris Philp this position will keep “regulatory intervention to a minimum” by making the using "existing regulatory structures" where possible. However, the Strategy does question whether the UK’s current sector-based regulatory approach is adequate and suggests there may be a case for greater cross-cutting AI regulation in the future. From techUK’s perspective, technology-specific regulation would be undesirable and impractical for a myriad of reasons. We will therefore continue to work closely with the Office for AI and other key stakeholders to consider alternative options, such as their suggestion of introducing additional cross-sector principles or rules that are specific to AI.


  • The Strategy aims to support the government's levelling up agenda by launching a joint Office for AI (OAI) and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) programme aimed at continuing to develop AI in sectors based outside of London and the South East. This would focus on the commercialisation of ideas and could see, for example, the government focusing investment, researchers and developers to work in areas which currently do not use much AI technology but have great potential, such as energy and farming. Government must continue to work with industry to identify the sectors that are most in need of AI solutions and provide guidance that is easy for organisations of all sizes to follow and adopt. This will help to ensure the benefits of AI are felt across the UK in every sector.


  • Piloting an AI Standards Hub to coordinate UK engagement in setting the rules globally, and working with The Alan Turing Institute to update guidance on AI ethics and safety in the public sector and create practical tools to make sure the technology is used ethically. The creation of this Hub provides an interesting opportunity for the UK to promote and export regulatory best practice developed by UK regulatory bodies, including the ICO and the Centre of Data Ethics and Innovation.


  • Launching a new National AI Research and Innovation Programme to improve coordination and collaboration between the country's researchers and help transform the UK's AI capabilities, while boosting business and public sector adoption of AI technologies and their ability to take them to market. techUK agree that further work is needed to put the D back into the UK’s current R&D strategy, to help convert and drive commercialisation of research into new companies, products, and services. Continuing to pioneer the development of new Sandbox schemes, and expanding those already in existence, such as the ICO Sandbox is one approach. Backing mission-driven policy to boost innovation that is aligned with research is also important. We’re pleased to see the Programme intends to work across all the Councils of UKRI and be fully joined up with businesses of all sizes and government departments.


  • OAI/UKRI will be conducting a joint review into the availability and capacity of computing power for UK researchers and organisations. The review will also consider wider needs for the commercialisation and deployment of AI, including its environmental impacts. Long-term investment must continue in key computing infrastructure including HPC, and Quantum as these will form the technological foundations upon which scientific research and innovation will be possible.


  • The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will be launching a consultation on copyright and patents for AI to make sure the UK is capitalising on the ideas it generates and that there is clarity in what and who determines copyright. This could include, for example, in situations where a creator was a machine rather than a human or if an algorithm used someone else's patent.

Following the Spending Review the Office for AI will publish a Delivery Plan that will set out their approach to monitoring and delivering the National AI Strategy in more detail, including the level of investment in AI.

techUK will continue to work with its members to unpack the details presented in the Strategy over the next few weeks and look forward to continuing to work closely with the OAI and DCMS to help operationalise the Strategy. If you’d like to discuss the Strategy in more detail or would like to get involved in techUK’s AI programme, please contact [email protected].

Commenting on the publication, President of techUK Jacqueline de Rojas said:

Today's publication of the UK Government's National AI Strategy is an opportunity to strengthen the UK's position as a leading AI innovator.

Setting out a clear plan to build an AI future that is inclusive and builds public trust in this transformative tech is a clear imperative and also an opportunity. Government must now focus on operationalising the strategy to ensure it supports businesses and communities across all sectors and regions to adopt and use AI.

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Head of 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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