UK Research and Innovation is investing in “lawtech” in unprecedented amounts, with some 20 projects funded to the tune of £6.5m. The Whitehall body has targeted researchers at a range of universities engaged in a variety of projects that will report by March 2021. A few weeks ago, Oxford University was allocated more than £210,000 to study the subject of the “lawtech ecosystem in the UK and beyond”. However, some industry experts are sceptical. Chief among them is Alex Smith, a former innovation manager at the London office of Reed Smith. “I don’t totally understand what this research is trying to achieve,” he said, adding that the projects appear to be “very academic”, adding that the government funding “seems to be replicating existing commercial initiatives.” However, Professor Mari Sako, who heads the Oxford University project, is adamant that its research will have practical benefits to the legal profession and the public. “Our ongoing research is starting to generate valuable insights into how lawtech is impacting on legal practice, training and careers,” she says. “This additional funding will help us develop a parallel understanding of the lawtech sector, in particular how lawyers, solutions vendors and funders interact with each other.”

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