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Government provides boost to artificial intelligence skills

PhDs and researchers will be sponsored as part of a programme aimed at creating and retaining experts in artificial intelligence technology

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced funding to boost the national artificial intelligence (AI) skills base.

One of the funding packages comes from industry and government, and will see £200m going towards 1,000 PhD places focused on AI in the next five years.

Students will study the application of the technology to support diagnostics in healthcare and enhance processes in industries such as aviation and car manufacturing. Separately, a further £170m will be committed to funding 1,700 places to study PhDs in biosciences.

Announcing the funding, prime minister Boris Johnson said the UK must continue to be world-leading in AI and technology.

“That’s why we’re investing millions of pounds to create hundreds of AI and bioscience PhDs, so research and development can thrive here in the UK and solve the biggest challenges that face us – from climate change to better healthcare,” he said.

Under the programme, 200 students from 14 universities nationwide will be working with a pool of 300 organisations including AstraZeneca, Google and Rolls-Royce over a five-year period.

Students will also be working with NHS Trusts in projects around using AI to improve diagnosis of illnesses such as cancer, accelerate the development and access to new drugs, design personalised medicine and improve care.

In addition, students will be looking to make businesses more energy-efficient, create low-carbon materials, improve monitoring of climate temperatures and design greener transport, such as planes, trains and cars.

In addition, science minister Chris Skidmore announced the first five AI Turing Fellowships, the UK’s national institute for AI and data science, designed to “ensure the UK has the skills needed to make the most of artificial intelligence”.

He also called for more international academic talent to join these researchers, with £37.5m in further funding available.

Projects developed by the fellows include work on AI for discovery in data-intensive astrophysics, as well as AI methods which fuse high-performance mathematical simulations for the aviation sector.

In addition, a £13m investment is aimed at building AI conversion courses from 2020, which will allow 2,500 more people to study AI from backgrounds other than science or maths at undergraduate level.

The programmes include the involvement of technology companies such as Accenture, DeepMind, QuantumBlack and Amplyfi, which are already sponsoring AI masters students.

The initiatives announced by the government will include 1,000 scholarships aimed at people from underrepresented backgrounds, including women, ethnic minorities and low-income families.

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