Governments and advisors clamour to attract medical AI research and development

UK AI roadmap

As AI becomes increasingly embedded in people’s lives, the UK Government’s independent advisory AI Council this month issued an AI Roadmap calling on the Government to launch a UK National AI Strategy to cement AI expertise and technology in UK society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the uptake of digital health technologies and the corresponding proliferation of health data – referred to by the Council as the ‘datafication’ of individual healthcare – across national health systems, and the Council has for the UK strategy to realise the “abundant opportunities” for personalised and preventative health outside the hospital setting.

The Council’s recommendations do not come without warning, however – with the proliferation of personal health data, the Council encourages “appropriate oversight” on how AI-based health technologies develop. The Council thus calls for a tandem data strategy for health and care to gather codified, real-time data controlled by a strong data governance framework.

Recognising the growth in digital health technologies and data to underpin AI technologies, the Council finally calls large national trials using new personal health data, drawing in life science businesses and place the UK at the forefront of global AI-driven life sciences research.

Canadian routemap to AI health infrastructure

With its suite of recommendations on an AI strategy, the UK’s AI Council joins Canada’s AI for Health Task Force in calling on its government to establish AI for health (AI4H) infrastructure to accelerate the development of AI4H applications. The Canadian Task Force similarly calls for the uptake of AI-supporting digital health technologies and for the integration of advanced AI4H applications into Canada’s healthcare systems to maintain Canada’s place in global AI4H research and development.

German federal government action to attract AI

Amid pressure on national governments to capitalise on advances in AI-based technology and the increasing ubiquity of AI in society, the German Federal Cabinet has approved an updated Artificial Intelligence Strategy to scale up its commitment to AI research and development through to 2025.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided fresh impetus last year to update the health-related provisions of the strategy to leverage AI to help the German federal government to tackle such pandemics. The strategy’s five priorities include fostering international collaboration on AI research and setting up support schemes and accelerators for small businesses in key sectors including healthcare to feed into the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and future health shocks.

The government has pledged to increase investment into AI from €3 billion to €5 billion by 2025, primarily to increase computing capacity, make larger quantities of data available, and build up AI ecosystems on a national and EU level to support international efforts to tackle global health threats.

International AI coordination in the G7

Ahead of the UK’s presidency of this year’s G7 summit, the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stressed the centrality of AI in the UK and global fight against COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, AI has ensured clinical resources within hospitals have been allocated quickly and effectively, while clinicians have been supported in better understanding the progression of the virus through AI-supported imaging.

Whilst acknowledging the importance of encouraging further development of AI within medicine, Hancock also advocated for "guide rails" to be put in place. To achieve this, he intends to work with the G7 to look at internationally recognised standards and ethical underpinnings of AI.

Given AI is only as good as the underlying data, Hancock deemed the development of health data interoperability standards critical. Building on the work of the Global Digital Health Partnership, this would enable data to be shared and fed into AI applications quickly and seamlessly.

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