The UK’s digital and culture secretary Matt Hancock is in Paris today to announce a package of measures to strengthen ties between the UK’s and France’s digital industries.
The aim is to boost both countries’ digital economies and forge closer links between technology companies on both sides of the Channel.
It follows a commitment made by French president Emmanuel Macron and prime minister Theresa May at the France-UK Summit in January 2018 to boost cooperation in these fields.
Mr Hancock will address the UK-France Digital Colloque, a bilateral conference on data and the digital economy, alongside his French counterpart, Mounir Mahjoubi.
In his speech, Hancock will confirm that the UK’s centre for AI and data, the Alan Turing Institute, is signing an agreement with the French institute, DATAIA, to promote collaboration between the British and French sectors.
The deal will see the two organisations pursue collaborative research in areas of shared interest – for example, in fairness and transparency in the design and implementation of algorithms.
They will also share expertise, paving the way towards visiting researchers spending time at each institute, and the hosting of joint workshops or funding calls.
Alan Wilson, CEO of the Alan Turing Institute, said, “The fundamental goal behind all our research is to build a data- and AI-enriched world for the benefit of all. In order to do this, it is critical to forge international collaborations and share our knowledge, expertise, and ideas with other research centres around the world.
“The Institute and DATAIA both share a vision for building research in data science and AI, which crosses disciplinary boundaries and recognises the societal implications of data and algorithms.
“It is a pleasure to kickstart this engagement, and we look forward to working with them to advance UK and French excellence in this area.”
Hancock’s appearance at the event follows the government’s recent publication of its detailed policy statement on AI governance, which was published in response to the House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Select Committee report of April 2018. For more on those announcements, turn to our detailed analysis.
At the Digital Colloque – a summit of more than 350 businesses, researchers, and officials from both countries – Hancock and Majoubi will also sign a five-year accord on digital government.
This will commit the UK and France to extending their cooperation in the digital sector, in areas such as AI, data, and digital administration.
Hancock will say, “The UK is a digital dynamo, increasingly recognised across the world as a place where ingenuity and innovation can flourish. We are home to four in ten of Europe’s tech businesses, worth more than $1 billion, and London is the AI capital of Europe.
“France is also doing great work in this area, and these new partnerships show the strength and depth of our respective tech industries and are the first stage in us developing a closer working relationship. This will help us better serve our citizens and provide a boost for our digital economies.”
Hancock will also confirm that London-based outlier incubator Entrepreneur First is to open a new Paris office.
Plus: Social giants not too big to regulate – Hancock
In related news, the digital secretary told an event hosted by Politico yesterday that technology giants and social platforms are not too big to regulate, in advance of government plants to rein in the power of major players, such as Facebook and Google. He said, “There was an attitude that pervaded for maybe a generation that these companies are global and therefore you can’t regulate them. Not true. That these companies, the technology changes fast and therefore you can’t regulate it. Not true. That people don’t really understand and therefore we can’t regulate it. Also not true.”
Internet of Business says
With Brexit looming and the details of the UK’s future relationship with Europe still being thrashed out, the risk is that critical European partnerships may wither, or be left in limbo.
At the Westminster eForum event on AI policy in February, for example, a senior civil servant in the field of technology and scientific research told Internet of Business that the UK is now being “actively excluded” from European research programmes, which it once either led or stood at the centre of. That’s a tragedy for UK technology, science, and engineering.
So news of this deeper bilateral partnership with the UK’s nearest neighbour is heartening, and welcomed by Internet of Business.