Insights Government announces £29 million funding to boost digital revolution and help keep people safe online

The Government says that a new online safety centre of excellence and six new research projects across the UK will “help people seize the possibilities of the digital revolution while addressing challenges to online safety and privacy”. The initiatives are part of a £29 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and include projects to test how immersive technology can improve people’s education and explore how the Internet of Things can benefit people’s lives and improve their wellbeing.

The package includes £7 million from UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund for a new National Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence online (REPHRAIN) bringing together researchers from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Bath, King’s College London and UCL.

REPHRAIN will also work with industry, academics and the voluntary sector to develop new technologies to help human moderators tackle the spread of online disinformation and identify harms linked to online targeting and manipulation. The centre will develop a world-first Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) test site to trial new ways to boost data privacy.

The Government says that it is investing in this research as part of efforts to support the UK’s burgeoning safety tech sector which is creating solutions such as automated content moderation to tackle online harms including disinformation and providing age-appropriate experiences for users.

UKRI will invest £22 million in five Next Stage Digital Economy Centres, delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The centres will explore ways of using technology safely to enhance people’s lives.

The Government says that this funding comes as it “moves closer” to publishing its response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation, setting out its final decision on new regulations to put more legal responsibility on online platforms to protect people online. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.