Multi-agency pilot aims to help innovators navigate regulatory landscape

Four UK regulators have joined forces in a pilot scheme to offer businesses tailored support to meet requirements across various sectors while safely innovating.

The pilot service will be run by members of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), made up of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Backed by more than £2m in UK government funding, the service is intended to make it easier for businesses to get the help they need by bringing together the different regulators involved in the oversight of cross-cutting artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies.

Technology secretary Michelle Donelan said: “We are a nation that backs businesses both big and small. We want to make sure that they can quickly get to grips with rules and regulations around emerging technology.”

In line with the government’s pro-innovation approach to regulation, Donelan said regulations need to keep pace with rapid advances in digital technology and AI. “We don’t want [regulations] to be at the expense of stifling the launch of new innovations that can improve our everyday lives,” she said.

According to Donelan, safety is at the heart of the government’s approach to regulation in the UK, adding: “This new service will help businesses navigate the process of making sure they are compliant – supporting safe and responsible innovation.”

The government believes there is a growing need for joined-up advice across the regulatory landscape as digital technologies such as AI increasingly need to demonstrate compliance with a range of regulatory regimes. It hopes the pilot service will meet business demands for coordinated support and help innovators navigate regulations.

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The DRCF formed in 2019 and was launched in 2020 as a voluntary collaboration to explore emerging regulatory issues which cut across the remits of the CMA, FCA, ICO and Ofcom.

The government said the trial is expected to last around a year and will assess industry take up, service feasibility and how innovators are interacting with it.

In the coming months, the DRCF plans to run a competition for innovators to outline where they need support from regulators to ensure innovative new technologies comply with regulatory regimes.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has been working to identify, measure and monitor existing and emerging AI risks, looking into the regulatory risks of foundation models and frontier AI.

The government is also working with UK regulators on how they might need to regulate the technology given its cross-cutting nature and impact on various sectors. For instance, the CMA recently published an initial review of AI foundation models, which set out the opportunities and risks which foundation models could bring for competition and consumer protection.

On 1 and 2 November, the UK will host the first major global AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, focused on risks created or significantly exacerbated by the most powerful AI systems.

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