UK government announces £100m investment in AI foundation models

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The UK government has announced a £100m investment in foundation models, a rapidly emerging type of artificial intelligence that includes language models like ChatGPT and Google Bard.

These are AI systems that are trained on massive data sets – text, images, video and audio - and could be used for a wide range of tasks across the UK economy.

The £100m will be used to support safe and reliable foundation models via a Taskforce, modelled on the success of the COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce, that will develop the use of this AI and ensure the UK is globally competitive in this strategic technology.

Research suggests that the broad adoption of these systems could triple national productivity growth rates. In areas like healthcare, for example, this type of AI has enormous potential to speed up diagnoses, drug discovery and development. In education it could transform teachers’ day-to-day work, freeing up their time to focus on delivering excellent teaching.

To support businesses and public trust in these systems and drive their adoption, the Taskforce will work with the sector towards developing the safety and reliability of foundation models, both at a scientific and commercial level.

The investment is intended to build the UK’s ‘sovereign’ national capabilities so public services can benefit from the transformational impact of this type of AI – but safely and reliably. The Taskforce will focus on opportunities to establish the UK as a world leader in foundation models and their applications across the economy and acting as a global standard bearer for AI safety.

The funding will be invested by the Foundation Model Taskforce in foundation model infrastructure and public service procurement, to create opportunities for domestic innovation. The first pilots targeting public services are expected to launch in the next six months.

The Taskforce, announced as part of the Integrated Review Refresh, will bring together government and industry experts and report directly to the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary.

Commenting Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said, “Developed responsibly, cutting-edge AI can have a transformative impact in nearly every industry. It can revolutionise the way we develop new medical treatments, tackle climate change and improve our public services, all while growing and future-proofing our economy.

“We need to act now to seize the opportunities AI can offer us in the future. We’re backing our expert taskforce with the funding to make our ambitions for an AI-enabled country a reality and keep the UK at the front of the pack in this emerging technology.”

The taskforce will be led by an expert Chair, who will be announced later in the summer. Matt Clifford, Chair of the Advanced Research and Innovation Agency, will advise the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary on the development of the taskforce while the appointment is ongoing.

Foundation models rely on significant compute power, and this investment comes on top of around £900 million for a new ‘exascale’ supercomputer and a dedicated AI Research Resource to equip the UK with the processing power needed to support the next generation of AI innovation. The Taskforce is expected to play a crucial role in ensuring the major, multi-year funding announced at the Budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritise and strengthen the UK’s capability in foundation models.