Thousands of graduates to become qualified experts in artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a new joint government-industry package to drive up skills in the AI sector, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright announced last week.

For the first time, the UK will have a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI Masters courses coupled with work-based placements.

The new skills and talent package is a major milestone of the modern Industrial Strategy’s AI Sector Deal which was launched in April 2018. It is supported by industry funding and up to £110 million government investment, including up to 200 new AI Masters places at UK universities funded by companies such as DeepMind, QuantumBlack, Cisco and BAE Systems; 1,000 students will have the opportunity to enhance their skills with new PhDs at 16 dedicated UK Research and Innovation AI Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), located across the country; up to 5 AI research Fellowships, created in collaboration with The Alan Turing Institute to both attract and retain the best research talent from around the world.

The announcement comes as new figures prepared for Tech Nation by Dealroom.co reveal the number of venture capital investments into the UK’s rapidly growing AI sector leapt by 17% last year. 

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: The UK has long been a nation of innovators. This AI skills and talent investment will help nurture leading UK and international talent to ensure we retain our world-beating reputation in research and development. Artificial intelligence has great potential to drive up productivity and enhance every industry throughout our economy, from more effective disease diagnosis to building smart homes. Our announcement is a modern Industrial Strategy in action, investing in skills and talent to drive high skilled jobs, growth and productivity across the UK. He added.

The UK is not only the birthplace to the father of artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, but we are leading the way on work to ensure AI innovation has ethics at its core. Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright also emphasized, we want to keep up this momentum and cement our reputation as pioneers in AI. Working with world class academic institutions and industry we will be able to train the next generation of top-tier AI talent and maintain the UK’s reputation as a trailblazer in emerging technologies.

As companies throughout the UK increasingly use AI in processes from manufacturing to fashion and construction to medical imaging, upskilling people to develop and maintain the new technology is crucial to its success in boosting productivity. This is part of the government’s continued drive to be a world-leader in harnessing the economic benefits of AI and the data-driven revolution, as part of the modern Industrial Strategy.

The schemes, aimed at people of different stages in higher education and available to researchers at a variety of levels, helps to build advanced AI skills at all levels, a key commitment contained within the AI Sector Deal.

To maintain its leadership in AI, the UK will need a new generation of researchers, business leaders and entrepreneurs equipped with new skills. Working with partners across academia and industry, the centres announced today will provide the foundations for these future leaders. said by UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport

The Industrial Strategy sets out Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future, ensuring that the UK takes advantage of major global changes, improving people’s lives and the country’s productivity.The artificial intelligence and data is one of the 4 Grand Challenges which will see AI used across a variety of industries and put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution. Exploring the best skills package to equip people with the expertise to make the most of AI was a key commitment of the AI and Data Grand Challenge’s £950 million Sector Deal.