From education to employment

Next generation of artificial intelligence talent to be trained at UK universities

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 today.

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. The Masters programme marks the first nationwide effort to address the skills gap at this level, in collaboration with the Industry of Coding and British Computer Society.
  • 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 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. Today’s announcement is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, investing in skills and talent to drive high skilled jobs, growth and productivity across the UK.”

Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said:

“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.

“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.

Dame Wendy Hall, AI Skills Champion said:

“I’m delighted to see the recommendations of the review that Jérôme Pesenti and I wrote just over a year ago, coming to life in such a comprehensive set of skills and talent initiatives. 

They provide a great impetus to developing AI skills and talent and I strongly encourage industry, universities and those of you who aspire to be part of putting the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution to get involved in these three initiatives.”

Finally, to develop the best and brightest AI researchers in the UK, the government is funding a new globally prestigious Fellowship programme. The first wave has been launched by The Alan Turing Institute.

Adrian Smith, Institute Director, The Alan Turing Institute said:

“Artificial intelligence represents an incredible opportunity to transform our economy and our lives for the better. The Turing AI Fellowships will be crucial in building UK leadership capability, driving forward ambitious research and ensuring that the UK can attract, retain, and develop world-leading research talent.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:

“Artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology in a range of sectors, enabling new products and services and transforming data science. It allows us to develop new approaches to challenges as diverse as early disease diagnosis and climate change.   

“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.”

The AI and Data Grand Challenge

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. Artificial intelligence and data is one of the four 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.

Industry funded AI Masters

  • Universities across England, Scotland and Wales are making up to 200 new AI Masters places available in September 2019.
  • The Masters programme offers a quick way to develop the skills of existing employees, returners to work, or individuals interested in converting their specialism to AI from other disciplines.
  • The Office for Artificial Intelligence is working with the Institute of Coding and the British Computer Society to identify viable AI Masters courses, and then connect universities with industry partners who are keen to fund these new places.
  • Eleven companies have committed their early support to collectively fund up to 50 of these additional places and work-based placements:
    • Deepmind
    • Quantum Black
    • Cisco
    • WilmotML
    • BAE Systems
    • Accenture
    • Amplyfi
    • Cambridge Consultants
    • Cray
    • Nvidia
    • Infosys
    • Discussions with universities and other companies are ongoing with the support of British Computer Society and the Institute of Coding.
  • This group of companies represent an initial commitment to this initiative. Further investment in AI Masters course places from other companies is strongly encouraged in order to match the potential for places in universities. 
  • If you are interested in applying please email The Institute of Coding: [email protected]

Centres for Doctoral Training

  • Supported by £100 million investment from government, the UKRI CDTs will support 1,000 students with around 200 students starting each year for five years.
  • They will be multidisciplinary and directly relevant to the broad range of sectors – from biomedicine to music – where AI can have a transformative impact.
  • Sixteen UKRI CDTs in AI have been successful and it is expected that more than 60 students will be supported at each UKRI CDT.
  • Two thirds of funding will be providing by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the remaining third by partners including those from industry including Rolls Royce, AstraZenica, BT, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Partners are investing £78 million in cash or in-kind contributions and partner universities are committing a further £23 million.
  • The successful UKRI CDTs are:
    • University College London
      • UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in Foundational Artificial Intelligence
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI-enabled healthcare systems
    • University of Exeter
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Environmental Intelligence: Data Science & AI for Sustainable Futures
    • University of Edinburgh
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Natural Language Processing
    • Queen Mary University of London
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence and Music
    • University of Sheffield
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Speech and Language Technologies and their Applications
    • Imperial College London
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence for Healthcare
    • University of Bath
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Accountable, Responsible and Transparent AI
    • Swansea University
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Computing
    • University of Southampton
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Machine Intelligence for Nano-electronic Devices and Systems
    • University of Edinburgh
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence
    • University of Glasgow
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Socially Intelligent Artificial Agents (SOCIAL)
    • University of Bristol
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Interactive Artificial Intelligence
    • University of Cambridge
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Application of Artificial Intelligence to the study of Environmental Risks (AI4ER)
    • King’s College London
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Safe and Trusted Artificial Intelligence
    • University of Leeds
      • UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence for Medical Diagnosis and Care

The Alan Turing AI Fellowships

  • The Office for Artificial Intelligence, The Alan Turing Institute and UKRI have worked together to design an initial call for a small number of Fellows.
  • Competitive funding packages will be available to established mid-career and senior AI researchers to develop a transformative research programme over 5 years. The initiative covers a broad range of AI applications across mathematical sciences, statistical sciences, computational sciences and engineering. Consideration may also be given to AI work that interfaces with the life science, social sciences or humanities. Fellowships may be full-time or part-time, with the option to work on other additional activities if working part-time.
  • £8.5 million government funding has been secured for the first Wave of the Fellowships
  • The Alan Turing Institute published the call on 18 February, with Fellows taking up roles in time for the 2019/20 academic year, with the Fellowships lasting 5 years. 
  • Examples of research areas which are of particular interest to the UK AI ecosystem and which span academic disciplines include:
    • AI ethics (including fairness, interpretability, privacy).
    • AI safety (including robustness, adversarial learning, security, control).
    • Robotics, vision, sensing, and visualisation.
    • Reasoning and autonomous decision making with uncertainty.
    • Multi-agent systems and agent-based modelling.
    • Machine learning
    • Language (including Natural Language Processing).
    • Applications of AI across a range of disciplines e.g. engineering, finance/economics, manufacturing, medicine, science, the environment and transport.
  • Further AI Fellowship opportunities will be launched later in 2019.


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