UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


UCL Computer Science student project featured in NHS publication on AI governance

15 January 2020

An Industry Exchange Network (IXN) project will let developers and users easily check their product meets NHS guidelines on AI.


Francesco Stefani, a UCL Computer Science MSc student, is developing an online portal that allows anyone involved in developing, deploying or using artificial intelligence (AI) systems in the NHS to check their project meets the service’s Code of Conduct for Data-Driven Health and Care Technology.

Francesco’s project was recognised in the NHSX report, “Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right. Putting policy into practice for safe data-driven innovation in health and care”, as an example of their AI governance framework.

The Industry Exchange Network

Francesco is undertaking this project as part of the Industry Exchange Network (IXN) - a UCL Computer Science scheme that allows students to work on real-world projects during term times as part of their degree courses.

Industry clients in healthcare submit projects that are matched to students’ motivations and skills. The projects are reviewed for clinical outcomes, and appropriate syllabus criteria that can be completed within term time. They provide a technical mentor for the students and materials to help them complete the project. Students receive a grade from a UCL supervisor for their work.

Since it started in 2011, the IXN has dealt with over 400 organisations, and has produced an average of 150 proof of concept projects per year. More than a third of the undergraduate projects are with the NHS.

Dr Dean Mohamedally, one of the founders of the IXN programme, says “the NHS benefits from the IXN because it has the ability to bring innovation to market faster with a developer community. Working with Computer Science students for short periods (six weeks to six months) reduces the risk of innovations not coming to market, and can quickly produce proof of concepts to test with. The students get the opportunity to benefit because they have real world experience of problems arising in industry”.

The NHS AI Lab timeline & report

Last year, the NHS also published its Code of Conduct for Data-Driven Health and Care Technology. It acts as a ‘how-to’ guide for anyone involved in developing, deploying and using data-driven technologies in the NHS. It has been internationally recognised as a leading source of guidance to ensure that AI is used responsibly and safely.

In August 2019, the NHS announced a £250 million investment in artificial intelligence applications for healthcare through the creation of the NHS AI Lab.

In late 2019, they released “Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right. Putting policy into practice for safe data-driven innovation in health and care”, which sets out the policy work for the AI Lab.

The report gives a current overview of data-driven technologies in healthcare and identifies areas where AI could be implemented. It outlines their vision to accelerate the adoption of proven AI technologies, as well as the need for robust governance.

The Self-Assurance Portal

Francesco’s project is described on page 39 of the report:

NHSX are currently working with UCL to develop an online ‘Self-Assurance Portal’ to facilitate compliance with the Code of Conduct. The portal will help developers understand what is expected of them, prompting them to provide specific evidence for each principle. In this way NHSX hopes to not just be telling people what to do in order to develop responsible AI, but asking them to tell us how they did.

 The portal is an online workbook version of the Code. Developers answer questions linked to each of the principles in the Code for each new product. For example, in relation to Principle 3, this question is asked: Is data gathered in the solution used solely for the purpose for which it is gathered? When users have provided responses to each set of macro-questions, they can see how their answers compare relative to others through visualisations.

The vision

The online portal is one example of the NHS AI Lab’s broader vision to uncomplicate and accelerate the adoption of AI in healthcare while ensuring this is done in a safe, effective and ethical manner.

The NHS hopes that by investing in “world-leading research on tools and methods that help people apply ethics and regulatory requirements” they can speed up centralised approval processes.

 We look forward to working together to make the UK the best place in the world to invest in health tech whilst reassuring the public, patients and clinicians that data-driven technology is safe, effective and protects privacy”.