The UK Government has launched an "AI Standards Hub" for the UK to shape and improve global technical standards for artificial intelligence. This follows the publication of its National AI Strategy in September 2021, which set out the key pillars of building investment, infrastructure and governance over the coming years for AI.

Key date(s)

  • 22 September 2021 – UK Government publishes National AI Strategy
  • Q1 2022 – White Paper on AI governance set to be published.


  • On 22 September 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy jointly published the UK's National AI Strategy (the "Strategy").
  • The publication of the Strategy fits into the Government's ambitions to harness the potential of AI and ensure the UK's position as a leader in the development and promotion of its use.
  • Whilst the Strategy does not contain specific legislative proposals for AI regulation, the UK has indicated its plan to adopt a more pro-business and pragmatic approach to its governance. The Government intends to publish a White Paper on how it will govern AI in early 2022.
  • The UK attitude towards AI is likely to take the form of sector-specific reforms of existing legislation, rather than introducing one expansive law.
  • The UK also indicates in its Strategy the intention to participate in multi-level discussions, both domestic and foreign, in order to shape AI governance internationally, increase interoperability of systems and gain a competitive edge on other countries.

 What it hopes to achieve 

  • Through the Strategy, the Government hopes to set a roadmap for the development, use and international governance of AI. The foreword from the Secretary of State for DCMS states that the Strategy intends to "signal to the world [the UK's] intention to build the most pro-innovation regulatory environment in the world".
  • This demonstrates considerable weight the UK intends to put behind innovation and the adoption of AI, as well as leading the global community's approach to its use and regulation.

Who does it impact? 

  • The Strategy does not yet contain specific legislative or policy proposals but lays down the intention of the UK Government to approach the regulation of AI through updating existing legislation and implementing piecemeal updates to existing rules.
  • In the medium to longer term, it will impact all companies using and implementing AI systems.

Key points 

  1. No concrete legislative proposals yet
  • The Strategy focuses on the Government's broader objectives of:
    • investing and planning for the long term needs of the AI ecosystem in order to continue the UK's position as a leader in science and AI "superpower";
    • supporting the transition to an AI-enabled economy" by capturing the benefits of innovation and ensuring that AI is benefiting all regions and sectors of the country;
    • ensuring the UK develops an appropriate national and international governance framework for AI technologies to encourage innovation, investment and protect the public and fundamental values.
  • The Government intends in early 2022 to publish a White Paper on how it will seek to govern AI, in which it will also consider the outcome of the DCMS data consultation. It has signalled its intention to reform the law surrounding AI in an incremental way by reforming existing legislation as opposed to one sweeping Act.
  1. Diverging UK vs. EU approaches to governing AI
  • In April 2021, the EU proposed its own legislation to regulate AI which takes a "risk based" ap
  • The proposal is an extensive piece of legislation which seeks to address the risks stemming from the various uses of AI systems whilst also aiming to promote 'trustworthiness' and innovation in this field.
  • By contrast, the UK's approach taken in the Strategy appears to be the Government's attempt to strike a balance between innovation, allocating responsibility to the appropriate regulators, regulatory autonomy in a post-Brexit world and leading the way to a global uptake of AI.
  1. Reforming data as it relates to AI
  • In September 2021, DCMS launched a 10 week consultation which proposes reform to UK data protection laws. The proposals aim to provide a more flexible regime and to shift away from the "one size fits all" approach to compliance with EU GDPR.
  • Amongst the proposals are specific reforms which would enable the use of data in relation to AI, including:
    • explicitly authorising the use of sensitive personal data (special category data) for bias detection and mitigation in AI systems; and
    • clarifying the use of the term 'fairness' in a data protection context... 

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