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Meet the Industrial Strategy Challenge Director - Next Generation Services

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Red and blue star burst Industrial Strategy logo next to the words 'Industrial Strategy' in red and blue.

What Industrial Strategy Challenge am I leading?

I am the interim Challenge Director for Next Generation Services. Our Professional Business and Financial Service sectors lead the world. However, with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the increasing use and availability of large data sets, these sectors are on the verge of significant disruption. This programme aims at supporting in particular the Accountancy, Insurance and Legal Services sectors to undertake this transformation and maintain the UK’s leadership position in these areas.

The programme will not only support technology development but also seeks to support responsible use of AI and data and the adoption challenges that arise, such as ethical issues, bias within data sets and transparency of machine generated outcomes.

Where have I come from?

I’m of the generation that grew up with the BBC micro which fuelled in me an early interest in programming and technology more generally. This led me, via an Electronic Engineering degree, into a career in the semiconductor industry initially as a software engineer, then through various project and innovation management roles, to managing a small part of the business within a global semiconductor company. During this time I also undertook an Executive MBA at Imperial College which underpinned an interest in the economics of innovation as well as the technical aspects.

Over the last three years, I’ve been leading our activities in the areas of transformative digital technologies, including AI, IoT, Distributed Ledgers, Immersive technologies, Cybersecurity and 5G. Prior to that I led the cross government SBRI programme supporting innovative businesses to address specific government challenges and also Smart, our SME grant programme.

What are my hopes for the Next Generation Services Challenge?

AI is potentially the most transformative technology of our time, and in many sectors like healthcare, on line retail and transport there are already many examples of deployment, particularly of Machine Learning. However, while there are some examples of use within Insurance, Accountancy and Legal services, these sectors are typically less active in R&D. My first goal is to increase the level of engagement with R&D in these sectors to help them develop and deploy AI and Data enabled solutions that will drive their productivity and competitiveness while also offering new, more affordable and more tailored services to their customers

AI and the use of data also raises a number of key challenges around, ethics, acceptability, transparency, bias and employment. These issues, if not properly addressed will undermine any progress and we are working closely with colleagues in both ESRC and EPSRC to approach these from both a social sciences and technical perspective. I’m keen to ensure that these technologies are used responsibly and to augment human capability not simply replace


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