As part of a continued show of support for the legal tech sector, the UK Government, through the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) body and Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, has handed out cash to five other projects, in addition to Office & Dragons – which Artificial Lawyer covered earlier this month.
The cash is a very small part of an enormous £550m ($734m) package of measures to support SMEs ‘during a climate of uncertainty’, the taxpayer-funded body said. In Office & Dragons’ case, they bagged just under £100,000 ($133,000), while several of the others also received sums of around this size.
The projects were independently assessed for ‘innovativeness, sustainability and their impact on Covid-19 recovery’ – although, it’s hard to see how some of these relate to the pandemic. Perhaps the key takeaway is simply that the Government is handing out cash to support legal tech projects and in turn hopes to stimulate economic growth. Economists such as John Maynard Keynes would no doubt support this approach, while those on the Friedrich Hayek side of things probably would not.
There’s an interesting debate here re. State intervention, and Artificial Lawyer would be interested to hear your views. Should taxpayer cash be handed out like this? After all, governments around the world prop up and seek to stimulate all types of sectors in their economies, from airlines to energy companies. Why not legal tech as well…?
The various projects that received funding are described by UKRI as:
Using AI, Wyser is developing an innovative disputes triage tool which will improve efficiency, reduce case backlogs and improve engagement between legal bodies and their customers.
RESOLV is a SaaS platform that provides seamless and remote access to Online Dispute Resolution services to lawyers, mediators and law firms. The service facilitates end-to-end mediation sessions via video meetings which are encrypted and transcribed using AI.
Uhura Solutions’ key focus is on the development and commercialisation of AI software that is able to review agreements and provide automatic identification of high-risk clauses in a body of contracts. This project is focused on ‘teaching’ the software to recognise a far broader range of agreement clauses and improve its AI engine.
Monaco Solicitors [UK law firm]
Virtual Lawyer uses cutting edge natural language generation methods, with algorithms trained on a wealth of real case data to produce advice letters to the employee setting out their rights. The online service provides employment law representation to people whose employment rights have been infringed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This project aims to develop a machine learning-based platform that could efficiently help legal professionals elaborate contracts. In addition to the creation of jobs during the current economic crisis, this technology has the potential to generate a year-5 post-project revenue of £27m.
This is a legal tech experimental development project to prototype and pilot a highly scalable legal dispute management and collaboration platform which will be attractive to neutral decision makers as well as to disputants, lawyers and their clients.’
Stephen Browning, Challenge Director of Next Generation Services at Innovation UK, said: ‘Innovate UK is actively working in the Legal Tech area with the Next Generation Service programme being the clearest example of this. Legal Tech companies seeking funding for research and development projects can apply to Smart Grants and sign up to AI for Services to learn of other opportunities as they develop.’
Also, there was a grant to Hanzo, which works in the legal tech field, although that grant was classed as focused on HR.
- Hanzo, the company known for its dynamic web content preservation from enterprise collaboration applications, also received a grant from the Sustainable Innovation Fund to extend its flagship Hanzo Hold product to address workplace risk.
The company explained: ‘COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends to both ‘work from home’ and ‘work anywhere’. Hanzo’s project aims to reduce information security and HR risks created by inappropriate staff behaviour on collaboration platforms.
‘The adoption of collaboration tools such as Slack is fundamentally changing the way people interact with one another. However, even after employees return to traditional offices, the use of collaboration platforms will continue (as will the risk of abuse) including both IT and behavioural risks.
‘‘Working from anywhere’ usually means taking hardware, and the information on that hardware, outside of the controlled environment of an office. This increases the risk that data may leak from an organisation. This can include intellectual property, such as patent applications or embargoed press releases, as well as personal information, including financial details and national insurance numbers of employees.’
If you are reading this and wondering if you can get some Government cash as well for your projects, check out the info below provided to Artificial Lawyer by UKRI.
Although the Sustainable Innovation Fund has now closed, (which is the grant scheme that the above were part of), organisations can still apply to the Smart Grants Programme.
Smart Grants are available to any UK-registered organisation on a two-month rolling cycle.
The next application submission deadline for Smart Grants is: 20 January 2021.
Projects with a duration of 6 – 18 months must have total eligible costs between £25,000 and £500,000 and projects of 19 – 36 months having total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2,000,000. All projects must be a collaboration of multiple parties.
To keep up to date with the latest funding opportunities sign up to the AI for Services Network.
So, there you go, good luck! But….please spend that grant money wisely, after all, it’s come from us, the British taxpayers and the coffers at the UK Treasury are looking a bit empty at the moment.