07 October 2021

Government releases first National Artificial Intelligence Strategy to establish UK as ‘global AI superpower’

The UK government released its National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy on 22 September 2021, following guidance from the AI Council’s 2021 AI Roadmap and other related plans – the Innovation Strategy and National Data Strategy. Among other topics, the National AI Strategy (the strategy) will involve a consultation on AI and intellectual property (IP) with the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO).

Since the AI Roadmap was published in March 2021, the UK government has been encouraged by the AI Council to produce an official strategy. Six months on, the strategy outlines how the UK aims to boost AI capabilities over the next 10 years, with the culminating goal to ‘make Britain a global AI superpower’.

The plan is broken down into three main ‘pillars’:

(i) investing in long-term needs of the AI ecosystem;

(ii) supporting the transition to an AI-enabled economy, while making sure all sectors can benefit from it; and 

(iii) ensuring the UK gets the governance of AI technologies right.

Each of these pillars has associated short-, medium- and long-term key actions, along with a promise of a more detailed and measurable plan being released later this year.

One of the short-term plans is to complete a consultation on copyright and patents for AI in collaboration with the UKIPO. The strategy acknowledges that IP plays a significant role in building a successful business by rewarding people for inventiveness, creativity and enabling innovation. IP is noted for supporting business growth by incentivising investment, safe-guarding assets and enabling the sharing of know-how. The strategy further recognises that AI researchers and developers need the right support to commercialise their IP and help them to understand and identify their intellectual assets, providing them with the skills to protect, exploit and enforce their rights to improve their chances of survival and growth.  

The strategy also recognises that for the UK to become a ‘science superpower’ and ‘the best place for researchers to innovate’, it needs an IP framework that gives British entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses a competitive edge. Among other things, the strategy promises to evaluate patentability of AI inventions, and to conduct an economic study to enhance understanding of the role the IP framework plays in incentivising AI investment.

The remaining short-term goals focus on supporting the Department of Education in developing AI skills and publishing subsequent AI strategies – the Defence AI Strategy and National Strategy for AI-Driven Technologies in Health and Social Care. Overall, the first three months are focused on data gathering and setting out the foundations for the framework to be implemented.

After the initial three months, the medium-term stage will involve the government looking to analyse all collected data and begin acting on it. The agenda includes a roll-out of new visa regimes to attract the world’s best AI talent and investing in AI programmes for schools, as well as encouraging a wider range of people to enter AI-related jobs. All these measures will ensure the UK has enough qualified workers now, and in the future, to sustain the UK’s new AI-driven economy. In addition, the government plans to publish a white paper on a pro-innovation position on regulating AI, in an effort to govern AI correctly. The strategy realises that AI is not currently unregulated, but it also recognises there are areas for improvement.

The long-term strategy will involve launching a new National AI Research and Innovation Programme to align funding initiatives: updating guidance on AI ethics and safety, as well as considering which machine-readable government datasets can be published for AI models. The government also intends to take on larger challenges, such as encouraging diversity in AI and including trade deal provisions in AI.

A more detailed and measurable plan for the execution of the initial stages of the strategy is expected towards the end of the year.

We will follow with interest the government’s progress in tackling the outlined action plans as part of its strategy to make the UK an AI superpower, and are pleased to see that IP has been identified as an important tool in achieving this goal.