From robolawyers to flying taxis - UK regulators awarded £10m to fund ‘innovative projects’

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 4, 2018
Business Secretary Greg Clark today revealed the 15 winning bidders for the £10 million Regulators’ Pioneer Fund. It is hoped the fund will help support opportunities identified in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

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The government has today unveiled which regulators will receive their share of a £10 million fund to help support innovative projects that have the potential to help benefit consumers and the wider economy.

The winners receiving their share of the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund were announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark, and include a diverse range of projects, which aim to support the opportunities identified in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The four challenges identified in the Industrial Strategy, which the £10 million fund aims to support, include: AI and data, an ageing society, clean growth, and the future of mobility.

The 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 winning projects

The regulators that have been chosen to receive funding will launch their projects in October. In addition, all applicants to the fund have been invited to join a new ‘Regulator’s Innovation Network’, a group run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy that aims to encourage sharing of best practice and building of new partnerships.

Some of the winners and projects include:

  • Ofcom - Using blockchain technology, with the aim of improving UK telephone number management. The government said that “as telephone networks move online, Ofcom will develop a secure sandbox environment - in partnership with industry - for voice communications providers to trial porting and managing telephone numbers using blockchain”.
  • Intellectual Property Office – AI solutions will be assessed and implemented to modernise the process of filing for Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), for example by using AI-powered preliminary searches for applicants filing for patents, trade marks and designs as part of the online filing process.
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority - The new SRA Innovate Testbed is an open innovation competition, created in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, to seek out and accelerate ethical AI-powered legal services.
  • Civil Aviation Authority - This proposal includes the establishment of a new advisory service to give innovators some preliminary regulatory guidance and aims to give CAA a better understanding of the innovation pipeline. It also includes building a new regulatory sandbox to allow testing of selected innovations in carefully controlled environments, and creating a regulatory lab to work with relevant organisations to develop new regulatory frameworks and policies for innovations such as flying taxis and automated systems. The CAA’s new Canary Wharf London base will also be more closely located to East London’s Tech City.

Commenting on the CAA’s winning bid, 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.

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