On the 25th of January (2019), a GovTechLab Knowledge Transfer Consortium event was held at UCL, which focused on the theme of ‘Government Innovation’. The event was chaired by Prof. Philip Treleaven (UCL), who started proceedings with an introduction to the event’s subject matter. The central theme pivoted upon how key and strategic functions and administrative duties of government can be advanced and utilised by emerging digital technologies (such as AI, DLT and Big Data analytics).

The keynote address was delivered by Nick Cook, from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Given that the FCA is rated – by other international regulative authorities – as the leading innovator in regulation, the talk was particularly germane to how new digital technologies can be used. Discussions regarding lowering the cost of advice (which opens up competition by lessening the financial burden placed upon small/medium sized organisations) and digital reporting were had. Another interesting area explored was the use of natural language processing for the translation of natural language to executable code. Furthermore, the opening up of statistical analysis based upon population (rather than sampling) was highlighted.

Following the keynote address, the policy session was held (chaired by Dr. Giles Pavey). This focused on how best to work with the government. Chris Webber (Open Innovation, Cabinet Office) provided concrete steps to take, such as identification of key civil servants and ministers interested and open to the use of new technology. He also noted that government is also interested in the issue of ‘online harms’, and the moral/ethical/legal implications of these technologies. Nick Davies (HMRC) presented on themes of direct tax collection (through DLT technology) and on the need to think about the legal structures which are currently derived from legislation first compiled centuries ago.

A research session was then held, chaired by Nick Davies. Here, Prof. Jon Crowcroft (Cambridge University) presented ‘How to tell when a Tech is not ready for government’, which was instructive and amongst many things, highlighted the dangers of ‘overselling’. Dr. Riam Kanso (Conception X) presented on her current work which involves the commercialisation of PhD (generating tech start-ups, organising mentorship and partnership with relevant figures, etc.). An analogous program to that of Conception X was discussed in terms of developing government related technology solutions.

The final session was on industry/funding and was chaired by Dr. Zeynep Engin. Here two levels of incubation were discussed: at the higher investment level John Spindler (AI Seed, Capital) discussed strategic mechanism of early identification and research, as well as optimal investment opportunities for government and academia. At the ‘grass-roots’ level Dr. Steven Roberts (Barclays) presented on the inception and development of Barclays Eagle Labs, which is the re-conceptualisation of banking, and the re-invention of high-street banking space. Such Labs re-imagine and use the traditional banking physical space to facilitate open and collaborative workspaces for start-ups and local business.

The consortium then concluded with an open discussion of the presentations and topics that may form the subject of future GovTechLab Knowledge Transfer Consortium events.