The prime minister is lining up a technology entrepreneur who co-founded the music industry business Songkick to spearhead a £100m government taskforce set up to forge Britain’s future artificial intelligence capability.
Sky News has learnt that Ian Hogarth, who is now an investor in dozens of start-ups, is a leading candidate to chair the Foundation Models Taskforce (FMT), which was unveiled by Rishi Sunak in April.
One Whitehall source said Mr Hogarth had emerged as the frontrunner for the post in recent days.
The Foundation Models Taskforce is being established to accelerate the UK’s adoption of safe AI models in areas such as the ‘large language’ platforms – like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard – which have become the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months.
The government intends that it is modelled on the COVID Vaccines Taskforce, and is likely to allocate additional funding to it in future, according to the source.
“The taskforce will play a crucial role in ensuring the major, multi-year funding announced at the budget for compute is strategically invested to prioritise and strengthen the UK’s capability in foundation models,” the government said in April.
Last week, Mr Sunak held talks with the US President, Joe Biden, to discuss the future opportunities and threats posed by AI.
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The government subsequently announced that Britain would host a global summit in the autumn to debate the regulatory “guardrails” that will mitigate future risks from the technology.
The prime minister is determined to establish the UK as a global hub for the development of AI technology, and also for its oversight, as he seeks to demonstrate that post-Brexit Britain can be an international destination for major tech investment.
At the time of the FMT’s unveiling, Mr Sunak said: “Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security.
“By investing in emerging technologies through our new expert taskforce, we can continue to lead the way in developing safe and trustworthy AI as part of shaping a more innovative UK economy.”
In the past month, he has met the bosses of tech giants including OpenAI and Google’s parent, Alphabet, to discuss the sudden explosion of AI adoption across the economy.
Last week, another entrepreneur, Matt Clifford, who chairs the government’s Advanced Research and Innovation Agency, issued another warning about the technology.
“If we try and create artificial intelligence that is more intelligent than humans and we don’t know how to control it, then that’s going to create a potential for all sorts of risks now and in the future… it’s right that it should be very high on the policymakers’ agendas,” he said.
Mr Clifford is also advising on the establishment of the FMT, according to the government’s announcement in April.
A government insider said Mr Hogarth’s appointment could yet fall through, but that it was expected to be finalised shortly, with London Tech Week being staged this week.
Mr Hogarth is a visiting professor of practice at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), and an investor in more than 40 start-ups, according to an online biography.
He is also a partner at Plural Platforms, a venture capital firm.
He orchestrated the sale of Songkick, following an anti-trust case which resulted in Ticketmaster paying a $130m settlement.
A government spokesperson said: “The recruitment process for the chair of the Foundation Models Taskforce remains ongoing.”