Announcement of the winners in the first phase of the UK-US Privacy Enhancing Technologies Prize Challenges

The UK and US governments have announced the 12 winners of the first phase of the UK-US Privacy Enhancement Technologies (PETs) awards challenges. Competing for cash prizes from a combined US-UK prize pool of US$1.6 million (£1.3 million), the contestants will develop solutions that allow artificial intelligence models to be trained on sensitive data, without companies losing their raw data disclose, share or combine.

Successful challenge solutions will be presented at the second Summit for Democracy, which President Joe Biden plans to convene in the first half of 2023. The US Challenge is funded by the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and administered by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

“AI is driving rapid technological change based on ever-increasing amounts of disparate data, making privacy-enhancing technologies increasingly important,” said Laurie E. Locascio, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director. “The US-UK PET Prize Challenge provides a global venue to design and showcase innovative and scalable solutions that respect human rights and civil liberties. I am excited about the solutions proposed by these scientists and look forward to their impact on enhancing privacy and empowering trustworthy AI.”

“These first-of-its-kind international awards challenges focus innovators from the US and UK on meeting the challenge of maturing PETs for practical use cases,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation. “The scale of participation and the caliber of participants in the US-UK PETs Prize Challenges promise to accelerate the implementation of PETs into practice. I am excited for the strong start of the price challenges across the transatlantic research community and look forward to the results in the next phases.”

The 12 winning technical papers were selected from 76 submissions across two challenge paths: using PETs to improve financial crime detection and predicting an individual’s risk of infection during a pandemic, or designing a solution that meets both scenarios. A total of $157,000 (£138,000) was awarded during this phase.

“Privacy-enhancing technologies have the potential to unlock the power of data to address major societal challenges – from international money laundering to responding to global pandemics – in a way that respects citizens’ rights,” said the Minister of State for Media , Data and Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “That’s why I’m delighted at the strong response to the UK-US joint awards challenges, which see world-class researchers on both sides of the Atlantic challenged to innovate in ways that uphold our shared values.”

For the first phase of the competition, teams from academic institutions, global technology companies and privacy companies submitted white papers outlining their approaches to preserving the privacy of data analytics. In the second phase, which began in October 2022, the teams began developing the solutions they had outlined in their whitepapers. Challenge participants have the opportunity to work with regulators and government agencies to receive guidance on developing solutions that adhere to key regulatory principles.

In the US, awards were given to the following teams:

  • Team MusCAT — Researchers from Broad Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, University of Texas Austin, University of Toronto
  • Team IBM Research
  • Team Secret Computers – Researchers from Inpher Inc.

In the UK awards have been given to the following organisations:

  • Corvus Research Limited
  • diagonal works
  • GMV
  • Faculty
  • Feature space limited
  • OpenMined and DeepMind
  • Private Limited
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Liverpool

In the third phase of the prize challenge, “red teams” will launch privacy attacks on the most promising solutions to rigorously test their privacy-preserving capabilities and determine the final winners. Applications for red teams will be accepted until November 23, 2022. The top red teams will receive prizes from a total pool of $225,000 (£200,000).

Financial crime and public health solutions are developed using synthetic datasets representative of real-world use cases. Organizers of the prize challenge announced today that the synthetic banking data used in the financial crime challenge is based on data from global financial institutions BNY Mellon and Deutsche Bank.

Innovators on the trail of financial crime are also working with synthetic global transaction data created by SWIFT, a global provider of secure financial intelligence services, powered by MOSTLY AI. Public health innovators work with a synthetic dataset created by the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute.

Planning for the challenges is being led by the UK Center for Data Ethics and Innovation and Innovate UK and the US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NIST and NSF.

The prize challenges were launched in July 2022. Visit petsprizechallenges.com for more information.

Read more at NIST

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