£8.5 million programme to transform AI ethics and regulation

Asian man using face scanner to unlock glass door in office building.

AHRC announces the first major research programme on AI ethics and regulation of this scale in the UK.

A new research programme has been announced that will see researchers collaborate with industry and policymakers to tackle some of the of the biggest ethical questions posed by artificial intelligence (AI).

The programme aims to build public trust and ensure the UK remains at the global forefront of the research, development and deployment of AI technology.

This will be the first programme of its scale in the UK and will inform the ethical development and use of AI.

The ‘Enabling a Responsible AI Ecosystem’ programme is led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, and is delivered in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute.

Building trust

AI is unlocking enormous benefits across our economy and society, however with this come new and accelerated risks.

It is vital to build trust to ensure the AI industry can thrive and its technology can benefit people’s lives.

This programme will help build public confidence by fostering the growth of a responsible and ethical AI ecosystem informed by world-class, trusted research.

The programme will enable progress in how responsible and ethical approaches to AI technologies are applied to positively transform commercial, business-led and public-facing endeavours.

A range of AI applications

It will move beyond AI ethics frameworks, creating recommendations and using cases that can be put into practice for a range of AI applications, including:

  • biometrics and facial recognition
  • big data analytics in the financial sector
  • diagnostics in healthcare.

Harnessing the expertise of researchers and innovators from a range of disciplines, from the humanities to computer science, the programme will involve diverse perspectives to tackle these complex ethical challenges.

New insights and perspectives

Dr Allan Sudlow, AHRC Director of Partnerships and Engagement, said:

From facial recognition to big data used in the financial sector, ‘deep fake’ videos to ‘tailored’ adverts on social media, AI has become embedded in our daily lives. However, this prevalence has raised a number of questions about the ethical impact of such data-driven technologies.

Ethics and accountability cannot and must not be an afterthought in the design and development of AI. This programme will work in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute and industry, government and regulators to add new insight and perspectives to this area.

This important investment announced today will harness the UK’s existing strengths across multiple sectors and disciplines to ensure the AI technologies of the future are used responsibly and ethically across our society and industry.

UK’s AI capability and capacity

Carly Kind, Director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, said:

We are delighted to be partnering with AHRC on this major new research programme to ensure that AI works for people and society.

There is a real opportunity for the UK research community, in collaboration with policymakers and industry, to lead the way in developing a responsible AI ecosystem.

We will be working with AHRC and an appointed Programme Director to define and shape the programme strategy, identify and amplify diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives, engage with the existing ecosystem and influence policy and practice.

A world-leading ecosystem

Edwina Dunn, Chair of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, said:

To truly realise the transformative benefits of AI, we need to build a world-leading ecosystem to ensure that these technologies develop in a way that earns public trust.

A strong research environment will help to ensure that the UK can continue to make rapid progress in achieving the benefits of responsible AI.

We look forward to working with the academic community to achieve ethical and responsible approaches to AI.

See the British Computer Society’s report, Priorities for the National AI Strategy, for more information on UK’s national AI strategy.

Top image:  Credit: Zephyr18, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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