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SRA and county council secure funding for legal projects from Regulators Pioneers Fund

An Oxfordshire County Council project aimed at improving legal compliance in relation to unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services and trials and a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) research project into enhancing legal access within local communities are amongst 21 projects to have received financial backing from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

In total, £3.7m worth of funding was awarded, with the SRA receiving £167,856 and Oxfordshire £169,500.

With its funding, the SRA said it would create a new network where local authorities, regulators, and expert research institutions can work together to improve legal access within local communities.

The project will involve testing and promoting new and emerging legal technology.

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Participants assisting the SRA will include the West of England Combined Authority, the Information Commissioner's Office, and Swansea and West of England Universities.

Research into what innovations are available and how they connect with those in need of them is scheduled to kick off the project, the regulator said. The feasibility of developing these innovations for wider use will then be considered.

Upon the project's conclusion, the SRA plans to showcase its findings to other interested parties so that they can be replicated across the country.

Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA Board, said: "Our 2020 Legal Access Challenge was a success, awarding £500,000 to developing legal technology solutions, and this is a welcome opportunity to do more to support people to find the legal help they need.”

She added: "This project will focus on working with local partners and communities to identify innovative services that can increase access to legal services. We know this is hugely important because the majority of people and small businesses don't seek legal help either because of concerns about affordability, or simple lack of confidence and familiarity with the legal sector. This work is, particularly timely in the context of the pandemic and the lasting impact it will have on communities, the economy and our readiness to use tech to solve problems."

Business Minister Lord Callanan said: "Good regulation should spur entrepreneurship, not stand in its way, and this project will help keep the UK at the cutting-edge of innovation. This project could pave the way for exciting developments in the sector, bringing benefits to British businesses and consumers alike."

Oxfordshire County Council's scheme meanwhile aims to improve legal compliance for UAV services and trials.

The local authority described a need for local authorities to engage with new developments in the sector in order to remain competitive and enable industry growth "while also not compromising safety".

The project description added that the scheme would “establish a framework to understand the requirements and progress of UAV services and trials”.

As part of this, the project will seek “to help reduce discretion and monitoring costs to de-risk new trials”.

The goal is also to understand what needs there will be for ground-level infrastructure and urban planning to implement the framework. 

Adam Carey

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