AI should feel like a comfortable space for Rishi Sunak.
The Prime Minister, a Stanford MBA graduate who’s worked in the United States and still has a flat in California, has rubbed shoulders with many of the businesspeople now making waves with innovative new technologies and applications.
So, is his government making a splash in the crowded AI space?
During a visit to Washington in June, the Prime Minister announced that the UK will host the first major global summit on AI safety, with support from major players and the US President, Joe Biden. This was a welcome moment for Sunak to show that he has the ear, and the trust, of Biden, who is no doubt happy to let a close ally take the lead on the issue.
Here at home, Sunak then made sure that he was visible during London Tech Week, appearing on stage in conversation with Denis Hassabis, co-founder of Google DeepMind – a British AI success story that’s been bought by the American search giant.
There’s plenty of reason to be buoyant about the UK’s prospects as a home for future AI businesses. With 144 unicorns – startups worth more than £1 billion – the UK is third in the world behind the US and China when it comes to value and investment levels.
The City of London, despite competition from the continent, remains Europe’s pre-eminent financial centre. And the Government is now looking at reducing barriers to foreign direct investment in a review led by the former Conservative Minister and businessman, Lord Richard Harrington.
The Government needs to make sure that the UK can offer AI companies every aspect of what they need to make a real success story of UK operations. Having a proper strategy in place will be crucial, and the AI White Paper, released in March, is the first step on this journey.
But companies might also look nervously at the UK’s relatively poor track record in providing support in particular to scale up businesses, and ask just how the UK can keep up with the financial firepower of the US and EU.
In this context, the Prime Minister’s ambition for the UK to be a leader in AI creates an opportunity for AI and related businesses to craft a positive operating environment in the coming months and years.
Public awareness of the power of AI has never been higher, but some of the largest AI players are calling for the brakes to be applied to development until we can be sure that AI won’t pose existential risks to society. The Government faces a tricky path ahead.
Now is the time to be having conversations with the Government, setting out why your company can help to provide the answers the Government seeks. The Prime Minister and his advisors are on the lookout for achievable, costed solutions; if you have those ideas, now is the time to make a compelling pitch to government.
And, with an election on the horizon, it’s not just the Government who will be interested in what you have to say. The Labour Party is also building its own proposals around AI and very clearly reorientating itself to be far more business-friendly than it has been for some time. Engagement on both sides of the political debate will be crucial to ensuring the best possible future operating environment.
Britain wants to be at the forefront of the latest tech and innovation; with the right support and the right messages, you can help them get there.
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