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Digital Catapult unveils plan to increase adoption of ethics in artificial intelligence

Posted 28 Sep 2018

Practical ethics guidance and recommendations for artificial intelligence technology development unveiled by the Machine Intelligence Garage Ethics Committee.

London, 28th September 2018: Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage Ethics Committee has released its first Ethics Framework and invites AI companies to test the framework as a means to integrate ethical practice into the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.

The Ethics Framework sets out key ethical considerations and underlying questions that provide a practical approach for startups, individual developers and experts to use in planning for and addressing the ethical challenges faced by their business, technology and ideas.

The Machine Intelligence Garage Ethics Committee believes ethics should be a central consideration for companies and individuals developing AI in order to create positive meaningful change for society. Those who have considered the ethical implications of their products and services, and who monitor, manage and communicate effectively about them, will have a competitive edge.

Startups are the primary target audience for the Ethics Framework. According to Digital Catapult, startups are perhaps the hardest testing ground for ethical tools since they have little time or resource for unnecessary work or abstract discussion. Conversely, startups and scaleups can more readily reap the potential rewards, since they are unencumbered with legacy infrastructure and can embed ethical practices right from the beginning of their business growth.

The Ethics Framework will therefore initially be offered to companies on Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage programme to see how it can be applied to the systems that these startups are already in the process of creating. In addition, a series of workshops and roundtable events will be organised for companies and individuals outside of the programme to engage, with a view to helping to update and evolve the Ethics Framework over time, to understand how wider industry adoption can be effectively rolled out, and to produce or highlight tools that embed good ethical practice within good engineering practice.

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult, said: “At this very early stage in its development, presenting industry with a set of enforceable rules might deter companies from trying to navigate and understand what responsible AI looks like in practice. The Ethics Framework has been designed to provide guidance for companies to explore what role ethics might play in their projects and to help share best practice across industry.”

Dr Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information & Digital Ethics Lab Director at University of Oxford, and Chair of the Ethics Committee commented: “It’s been well discussed that the ethical application of artificial intelligence is one of the pressing questions of our time. The first Ethics Framework provides a guiding light for the ethical and responsible development of AI. It is critical that businesses of all sizes start to think and act ethically and responsibly. We know from working directly with early stage AI companies that a highly practical framework, which speaks in the language and caters to the needs of those developing AI enabled products or services, is required at this crucial stage in the formation of the UK’s already remarkable AI community. The new Ethics Framework is a robust enabler for innovation that will decrease risks and opportunity costs.”

Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage Ethics Committee is an independent body dedicated to realising responsible artificial intelligence development in the UK. It was established in July 2018 and includes some of the foremost minds in AI and data ethics. The Committee is made up of a Steering Group, who will oversee the development of tools to facilitate responsible AI in practice, and an Advisory Group, who will work closely with startups developing their propositions through Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage programme.

The Ethics Committee welcomes feedback and opportunities for collaboration. For a full list of Committee Steering Group and Working Group members, visit or contact us at [email protected].

To read the framework in full click here.



About Digital Catapult

Digital Catapult is the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation Centre, driving early adoption of technologies to make UK businesses more competitive and productive to grow the country’s economy.

We connect large established companies, startup and scaleup businesses and researchers to discover new ways to solve big challenges in the manufacturing and creative industries. Through this collaboration businesses are supported to develop the right technologies to solve problems, increase productivity and open up new markets faster.

Digital Catapult provides physical and digital facilities for experimentation and testing that would otherwise not be accessible for smaller companies.

As well as breaking down barriers to technology adoption for startups and scaleups, our work de-risks innovation for large enterprises and uncovers new commercial applications in immersive, future networks, and artificial intelligence technologies. For more info please visit