Projects lay the groundwork for a future of robolawyers and flying cars

New fund will back projects that will ensure rules and regulations keep pace with technological advances of the future from virtual lawyers to flying cars

  • 15 winning bidders for the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund were announced today by Business Secretary Greg Clark
  • Fund will support bodies to create a regulatory environment that gives innovative businesses the confidence to invest, innovate and deploy emerging technologies for the benefit of consumers and the wider economy.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has today (5 October 2018) awarded £10 million to UK regulators to help drive forward innovation in the public sector and help it seize long-term opportunities including the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the future of mobility.

The Regulators’ Pioneer Fund is funding 15 unique projects that will unlock the economic opportunities identified in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

Winning projects include:

  • nearly £700k to regulator Ofcom for a project that uses blockchain technology to improve UK telephone number management
  • nearly £700k for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to support business innovations that will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform the legal services market for small businesses and consumers
  • up to £1 million for the Civil Aviation Authority to support a project that includes a ‘regulatory lab’ that will bring together relevant bodies to unblock legislative and regulatory barriers to innovations like flying taxis

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

The UK’s regulatory environment is recognised as being among the best in the world and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are building a business environment in which Britain’s dreamers, developers and disruptors can continue to thrive.

These projects will further strengthen our regulatory system and ensure that it keeps pace with the innovation and technological advances needed to power our economy now and in the future.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s project, Data-Driven Innovation in Legal Services, in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, will seek out and accelerate ethical AI-powered business innovations that support their regulatory objectives. The focus will be on growing the large underdeveloped legal services market for small businesses and consumers, where AI and automation can have a transformative impact.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive said:

We are pleased that our proposal has secured pioneer funding and we are looking forward to working with Nesta on the new SRA Innovate Testbed. Smart use of technology could help tackle the problem that far too many people struggle to access expert legal advice. It will help us further build on our work to encourage new ways of delivering legal services, benefiting both the public and small business.

The Fund will help regulators support businesses get new products and services to market and capitalise on the society-changing trends and industries of the future, where the UK can build on its emerging and established strengths to become a world leader.

The 4 Grand Challenges identified in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy are:

  • AI and data: putting the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution
  • Ageing society: harnessing the power of innovation to meet the needs of an ageing society
  • Clean growth: maximising the advantages for UK industry from the global shift to clean growth
  • Future of mobility: becoming a world leader in shaping the future of mobility

The Civil Aviation Authority’s project, Innovation in Aviation Engagement Capability, includes the establishment of a new advisory service, giving innovators preliminary regulatory guidance while the CAA’s new Canary Wharf London base will also be more closely located to East London’s Tech City. It also includes a new regulatory ‘sandbox’ to allow testing, and a regulatory lab that convenes relevant bodies to identify future legislative and regulatory barriers to innovations such as flying taxis.

Tim Johnson, Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

We have already seen many global aviation and aerospace innovators choose the UK to develop their new products and services whether they are traditional operators in the sector or are new market entrants. We look forward to continuing to play our role in facilitating successful innovation.

Innovation brings tangible benefits to the UK’s economy and to the many people and businesses that use our airspace. The CAA recognises that it has an important role to play in facilitating innovation in aviation, and in doing so continue to focus on passenger and public safety and security. We are delighted to have support from the Regulators Pioneer Fund to advance this innovation agenda.

With its support, we will be able to give some innovators earlier guidance on proposals, allow more safe testing of new products and services and develop new regulatory frameworks for emerging technologies.

Mark Birse, Group Manager Device Safety, Surveillance, Software and Apps at MHRA, said:

We are thrilled to have been successful in our bid for the Pioneer Fund as we are committed to supporting innovative projects in order to protect health and improve lives.

This pilot project, in conjunction with NHS Digital, is aimed at producing synthetic datasets which will help innovators validate software and apps to be able to bring them to market at the earliest, safest opportunity.

The winning regulators will launch their projects in October. All applicants for the Fund have been invited to join a new ‘Regulators’ Innovation Network’, a group run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to encourage the sharing of best practice and to help forge new partnerships among regulators, government and industry, helping to ensure the regulatory system encourages innovation and remains simple for businesses to comply with.

The Regulators Pioneer Fund follows the Modernising Consumer Markets Green Paper which set out how regulators should ensure that consumers are not being unfairly penalised by suppliers who hold information on their behaviour as well as looking at how their own data can be made more accessible to consumers and making it easier for people to switch to better value services.

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