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Government and IT industry-funded AI graduate education programme to be rolled out across UK

UK government announces the launch of a state and IT industry-funded graduate education programme in artificial intelligence, comprising masters degrees, PhDs and Alan Turing Institute fellowships

The government has announced the launch of a state and IT industry-funded graduate education programme in artificial intelligence (AI), to begin in earnest in the academic year that begins this autumn.

Greg Clark, the secretary of state at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Jeremy Wright, secretary of state at the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, have jointly announced the programme, which includes masters degrees and 16 centres at universities that will offer PhDs.

Relatedly, the Alan Turing Institute’s AI research fellowships have been declared open to applicants, according to a statement from the two government departments.

Wendy Hall, the computer science professor from the University of Southampton who the government confirmed as the skills champion for AI in the UK in July 2018, said, in support of the programme: “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”.

That review report, Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK, published in October 2017, said that the country risked squandering a historic lead in AI unless government, industry and academia came together to give it cohesive support.

Hall continued, in support of today’s announcement: “They [the initiatives] provide a great impetus to developing AI skills and talent and I strongly encourage industry, universities and those 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.”

The initiatives are being presented as part of the AI Sector Deal component of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which was launched in April 2018.

The government is putting in £110m to support the programme, which comprises: 200 AI Masters places at UK universities funded by Deepmind, QuantumBlack, Cisco and BAE Systems, in collaboration with the Institute of Coding and British Computer Society; PhDs at 16 dedicated UK Research and Innovation AI Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs); five AI research fellowships, created in collaboration with The Alan Turing Institute.

Clark said, in a supporting statement: “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.”

For the DCMS, 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.”

For The Alan Turing Institute, director Adrian Smith added: “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.”      

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