UK reputation as ‘sensible’ regulator will help it keep leadership role in AI

11 January 2024, 09:54

AI safety summit
AI safety summit. Picture: PA

The Government’s tech envoy to the US has said the UK is well thought of in Silicon Valley.

The UK is well placed to remain a major global player in the tech sector because of its reputation as a good regulator, the country’s tech envoy to the US has said.

Joe White said the UK’s international reputation as “sensible” and “reasonable” had also helped the Government organise last year’s AI Safety Summit, where the Prime Minister looked to place the UK at the heart of the global discussion on the emerging technology.

Speaking during the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, Mr White said the perception of the UK among US tech giants was that it was an “incredibly important market, both in terms of economic size, but also in terms of, frankly, its regulatory freedom”.

“This is characterising, but often the US is seen as quite light on regulation, the EU is often seen as overly heavy and the UK therefore is seen as somewhere that is going to regulate, but in a way that you could actually have reasonable conversations with,” he told the PA news agency.

He added that many US tech giants felt that if they were to engage with regulators on an issue, where regulation in that country could create a roadmap for a wider global rollout of similar laws, “the UK is a great place to do that with”.

Mr White said this reputation meant that as emerging technologies, most notably AI, come under increased scrutiny, the UK was in a strong position to shape global policy and place itself at the forefront of the conversation.

During the CES tech show, artificial intelligence integration has been come of the most common themes among the major product announcements from industry heavyweights and smaller start-ups.

“The opportunity for the UK is to be the sensible, flexible cornerstone of choice for some of these new landscapes and we did that well with AI, we need to carry on building with that, and the companies certainly do recognise that,” Mr White said.

At the AI Safety Summit in the November, major tech and AI firms agreed to work with newly created AI safety institutes – the first of which is in the UK – to assess and monitor new AI models before they are released to the public.

Mr White added that the Government’s AI White Paper – published in early 2023 – also enhanced the UK’s reputation in Silicon Valley and “gave us credibility” to organise the AI Safety Summit.

The White Paper proposed asking existing regulators to take on the role of AI regulator in their area of expertise, rather than create a single new AI regulator working across all sectors.

Mr White said this was seen as “sensible” among tech firms in the UK and as a result meant it was “not a hard sell” to get companies to engage with the UK on AI safety discussions.

The tech envoy said he believed the UK was therefore in a position to maintain its prominent role in AI and the wider tech sector, helped by the country’s established history of innovation and research.

“The UK has the strongest tech sector in Europe – it’s the only trillion dollar tech sector outside of the US and China,” he added.

By Press Association

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