Released today (6 January 2021) the AI Council’s AI Roadmap comes at a critical time with artificial intelligence (AI) now an important part of the fabric and future of the UK.

The Turing already works hard to be a truly national institute. We are proud that we are increasing our engagement with institutions beyond our incredible partner universities. Together, we have formed an exceptionally strong and thriving alliance of academic institutions that makes a vital contribution to data science and AI. To continue this, it is crucial that the Institute is funded in a way that enables it to maximise its strategic position and convening power. This will allow the Institute to scale-up and drive AI research, development, and innovation across the UK. 

One of the key recommendations in this Roadmap is for the Institute to build on this work by strengthening our network and enabling regional hubs. We are excited at this prospect which would reinforce our place at the heart of the AI ecosystem.

Despite a challenging 2020 for all, the Institute has demonstrated that it can help to lead the public conversation and make significant impacts. Our researchers are playing a crucial role in the national response to the pandemic. Working with great agility and innovation by providing vital technical advice on the NHS COVID-19 app, exploring data to inform decisions shaping London’s lockdowns; and delivering insights which could help the most vulnerable navigate misinformation about the pandemic. We ensure ethics and innovation work hand in hand and are driven by our mission for AI and data science to change the world for the better. This has seen the Institute contributing a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our society and economy. We want to have the confidence that we can play a strategically important role in the prospects of the UK in the years ahead and maintain its position as a major player in the AI revolution. 

The Institute is already training and inspiring future generations of talented AI and data science experts. So, we are pleased to see that the Roadmap also recognises that AI skills will be essential if the UK is to be ‘one of the best places to live with, work with and develop AI’. The Turing is uniquely positioned to build further on this strength in the future. Just last month, we saw several of our fellows selected to deliver world-class AI research through prestigious Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships run by EPSRC.

The Institute is also well placed to support the national efforts in areas such as ethics, diversity, public trust, AI and data literacy, and governance. An example of this is the Institute’s data safe havens which have proven to be vital in helping to unlock the potential of data science. By creating safe and secure computing environments, the Institute contributes to transformative impacts in health, finance, engineering, and science. 

For many years, the Institute has been working closely with industry. From Data Study Groups to ambitious strategic partnerships to our collaboration with Digital Catapult, we are a well-established and trusted collaborator. We welcome the recommendation which acknowledges the importance of greater support to the UK’s AI start-ups in the future. 

Finally, a National Strategy for AI will be critical if the nation is to fulfil its potential. These are challenging times which require not just investment, but clear-minded, strategic thinking which will harness the UK’s unrivalled legacy, expertise and innovation in AI. 

I am confident that the recommendations set out in the Roadmap can create an exciting pathway to future AI success despite the uncertainty of our times. It is more critical than ever that we get this right.