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Sunak to pitch UK as ‘geographical home’ of AI regulation at tech conference

The Prime Minister is set to tell the London Tech Week that the ‘extraordinary’ possibilities of the emerging technology must be carried out safely.
The Prime Minister is set to tell the London Tech Week that the ‘extraordinary’ possibilities of the emerging technology must be carried out safely. The Prime Minister is set to tell the London Tech Week that the ‘extraordinary’ possibilities of the emerging technology must be carried out safely.

Rishi Sunak will tell technology leaders he wants to make the UK both the intellectual and the geographical home of artificial intelligence (AI) regulation.

In a speech to open London Tech Week on Monday, the Prime Minister is set to say that the “extraordinary” possibility of AI advances must be carried out “safely” as he positions Britain as a potential home of a global regulator.

It comes after the Conservative Party leader used a trip to the US last week to announce that the UK will host the first global summit on AI safety.

The Prime Minister, in pre-briefed comments ahead of his appearance at the 10th London Tech Week, will say: “Already we’ve seen AI help the paralysed to walk and discover superbug-killing antibiotics — and that’s just the beginning.

“The possibilities are extraordinary. But we must — and we will — do it safely.

“I want to make the UK not just the intellectual home, but the geographical home of global AI safety regulation.”

The UK Government has already given £100 million to a Foundation Model Taskforce that has been created to lead on AI safety in the UK.

US President Joe Biden told Mr Sunak while he was in Washington DC that he was looking to the British leader to “lead the effort” on heading up internationally co-ordinated action to mitigate the risks of the emerging technology.

Mr Sunak, speaking to broadcasters in the States, said he thought Britain was “well placed” to take a leading role in developing a “global architecture for regulation”.

The campaign has come after experts, including bosses at companies such as Google DeepMind and Anthropic, warned publicly that, in the wrong hands, AI could be used to harm people and spell the end of humanity.

Rishi Sunak visit to Washington DC
Rishi Sunak visit to Washington DC President Joe Biden told Rishi Sunak he wanted the UK to take the lead on AI controls (Kevin Lamarque/PA)

At Monday’s conference, No 10 said Mr Sunak will outline the need to bring together academics, leading tech companies and Government to deliver the AI benefits that have the potential to improve lives.

Mr Sunak will also say that the UK must “act quickly” if it wants to retain its position as a tech powerhouse as he argues that the “tectonic plates of technology are shifting”.

Already home to the largest tech economy in Europe, he will reinforce that the tech sector is at the heart of his priority to grow the economy, No 10 officials said.

Downing Street said that Mr Sunak would outline how, with world-leading universities, more tech unicorns than France and Germany combined, and one of the most digitally literate societies in the world, the UK was starting from a position of strength.

Mr Sunak will vow to make it his mission for the UK — which he dubbed an “island of innovation” — to continue to attract tech investment.

Breast cancer
Breast cancer AI is expected to bring about improvements in health and the teaching sector (Rui Vieira/PA)

He is expected to say that his administration’s plan is to “make this the best country in the world to start, grow and invest in tech businesses”.

“That is my goal. And I feel a sense of urgency and responsibility to make sure we seize it,” he is scheduled to tell the Westminster audience.

After his speech, the Prime Minister will take part in a “fireside chat” with Demis Hassabis, chief executive of London-based Google DeepMind.

Joanna Shields, chief executive of Benevolent AI, said there was “limited opportunity to take action” on regulating AI and that she was “delighted” the UK was taking the matter seriously with its autumn safety conference.

“These crucial initiatives serve as a solid foundation, and now it is essential for both the public and private sectors to collaborate closely to tackle this monumental challenge and position the UK at the forefront of AI regulation,” she said.

Darktrace chief executive Poppy Gustafsson said: “The UK is in a great position to be at the forefront of the AI revolution.

“I’m excited to see this country leaning in on this agenda and actively looking to capitalise on the tremendous opportunities that this creates.”