The Solicitors Regulation Authority has been awarded £700,000 in taxpayers’ money to support innovations involving artificial intelligence to transform the legal services market for small businesses and consumers. It is one of 15 winning bidders to the £10m ’Regulators’ Pioneer Fund’  set up by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in its ‘grand challenge’ to support new technologies.

Other winners include the Civil Aviation Authority, which receives £1m to find ways of unblocking barriers to innovations such as flying taxis.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: ’The UK’s regulatory environment is recognised as being among the best in the world and through our modern industrial strategy we are building a business environment in which Britain’s dreamers, developers and disruptors can continue to thrive. These projects will further strengthen our regulatory system and ensure that it keeps pace with the innovation and technological advances needed to power our economy now and in the future.’

According to the department, the SRA’s project, Data-Driven Innovation in Legal Services, ’will seek out and accelerate ethical AI-powered business innovations that support its regulatory objectives. The focus will be on growing the large underdeveloped legal services market for small businesses and consumers, where AI and automation can have a transformative impact’.

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said: ’Smart use of technology could help tackle the problem that far too many people struggle to access expert legal advice.’ He said the grant ’will help us further build on our work to encourage new ways of delivering legal services, benefiting both the public and small business’.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s project, Innovation in Aviation Engagement Capability, includes the establishment of a new advisory service giving innovators preliminary regulatory guidance and a regulatory ‘sandbox’ to allow testing. A regulatory lab will convene relevant bodies to identify future legislative and regulatory barriers to innovations such as flying taxis, the department said.

Among the other regulators to receive grants are Ofcom, which will spend the money on using blockchain technology to improve the management of telephone numbers, and the Financial Conduct Authority, which is investigating digital regulatory reporting.

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