ake1150 - Fotolia

Government pumps £1.1bn into tech skills training

Government funding will be used to allow more than 4,000 students to pursue PhDs in technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 6G

Science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan has announced a £1.1bn funding package for students wanting to study doctoral degrees in a range of technologies.

The funding, which comes from not only government, but businesses, charities and academia, will allow more than 4,000 students to study for their PhDs at a number of universities across the country.

Announcing the funding, Donelan said that building on the government’s reforms to the skills system “will require work from each and every one of us – universities, schools and businesses”.

“By doubling down on our investments in skills and backing British business, we can lay the foundations for an economy fit for the future – an economy that creates jobs and improves lives for communities up and down the country,” she said. “That is how we make our science and tech superpower mission a success.”

Many of the places available for students are at universities outside of London and the South East, including more than 350 places at the University of Glasgow, more than 300 places at the University of Edinburgh, 250 places in Bristol, and more than 150 in Sheffield and Manchester.

At the University of Bristol, work will be focused on taking advantage of developments in digital chemistry, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new drugs and treatments.

At King’s College London, researchers will be trained in improving personalized surgery, using advanced engineering such as micro-surgical robots. Other areas universities will focus on include semiconductors, quantum technologies and future telecoms such as 6G.

Additionally, the government is putting £60m into a series of quantum skills programmes running for the next 10 years, including £14m for 100 quantum PhD places and £14m for early career researchers. For those interested in apprenticeships, £4m will be used to run a pilot, aiming to create apprenticeship pathways into quantum computing.

Sheila Rowan, chair of the quantum skills taskforce said she was delighted to see the investments in quantum skills. “More than doubling the number of quantum Centres for Doctoral Training demonstrates the UK’s long-term commitment to quantum technologies,” she said.

“These investments will bolster our world-leading research, while supporting our innovative businesses to access the quantum skills and talent they need to grow. Developing these skills will be vital to achieve the UK’s ambitious goal of becoming a leading quantum-enabled economy, and unlocking the economic potential offered by quantum technologies.”

Following on from chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget, which promised a £7.4m AI upskilling fund, Donelan issued a call to action for eligible small and medium-sized enterprises to register their interest in the scheme.

The government has also launched a competition to select a delivery partner for the £3m Science and Technology Venture Capital Fellowship Programme, which was announced in the 2023 Autumn Statement, as well as creating a Future Telecoms Skills Taskforce, aiming to ensure the UK has the skills for a connected future.

In February 2024, the government launched a campaign to encourage more people to sign up to free technology skills bootcamps, aiming to plug gaps in British tech talent. It now wants to take this further and is working with industry and the Digital Skills Council to look at how to continue to encourage people to choose careers in technology and extend access to free digital upskilling resources.

Read more about the UK government and digital skills:

  • The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is encouraging people to sign up to digital skills bootcamps as government-funded research reveals huge demand for entry-level and junior tech talent.
  • Government is aiming to ramp up digital skills in Whitehall with a promise to recruit 2,500 new tech and digital roles through apprenticeships and talent programmes.
  • The UK has plans to become a tech superpower by the end of the decade, but the region still has problems with attracting and retaining talent – so how are these issues being addressed?

      Read more on IT for government and public sector

      Data Center
      Data Management