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Tech entrepreneur Ian Hogarth to chair AI taskforce

Sunak appoints AI taskforce chair
Image credit: Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

The government has appointed tech entrepreneur and investor Ian Hogarth to chair the recently launched AI taskforce, which will assess the risks and opportunities associated with advanced foundation models such as those powering ChatGPT.

The Foundation Model Taskforce, launched with an initial £100m in public funding, will oversee research into AI safety amid warnings from experts that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority”.

As chair of the AI taskforce, Hogarth will report directly to the prime minister and tech secretary. He comes from a tech entrepreneur background, co-founding concert discovery company Songkick.

He is also an angel investor and partner at Plural, which recently backed online content moderation startup Unitary, and a visiting professor at University College London.

“UK scientists and entrepreneurs have made many important contributions to the field of AI, from Alan Turing through to AlphaFold,” Hogarth said. “The prime minister has laid out a bold vision for the UK to supercharge the field of AI safety, one that until now has been under-resourced even as AI capabilities have accelerated.”

Hogarth has also co-authored the annual State of AI Report since 2018 alongside Nathan Benaich, which takes into account the latest developments in AI research, safety, politics and industry.

“As one of the leading figures in UK tech, it’s great to have Ian leading our expert taskforce, empowered with authority and agility to build our leadership in AI safety and development,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“It will ensure we do things differently and move with the same pace and vigour as we rise to meet the task ahead.”

During London Tech Week, Sunak said he wants to make the UK the “geographical home of global AI safety” and revealed that “frontier labs” such as Google DeepMind, OpenAI and Anthropic have agreed to give “early or priority access to models for research and safety purposes”.

Earlier this month Sunak announced the UK will host first global AI safety summit later this year to develop a “shared approach” for addressing problems associated with the technology.

Tech credentials

Hogarth’s appointment has been well received by the UK tech industry. James Clough co-founder and CTO Robin AI, a London-based startup, said that Hogarth is a “great choice for chair” and “deeply understands the underlying technology behind AI”.

Clough told UKTN: “His background as a founder and now prolific investor demonstrates his ability to build effective organisations, and to identify talent and technological trends, which is exactly the skillset needed as chair of this taskforce.”

Ed Stacey, managing partner at IQ Capital, told UKTN that he is “cautiously supportive”.

Stacey added his concern was that the taskforce “might be tempted to adopt a non-transparent certification model (such as for pharma), which would likely be a drag on innovation”.

He added that the “top priority should be to develop safety performance and assessment metrics for these foundation models” to ensure they are being used in the “tight context”.