The UK government has announced £8m funding to create 800 new AI scholarships as part of a new £60 million Regional Innovation Fund (RIF).
The fund, launched by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan will boost support for universities in areas with lower levels of research and development as part of a wider initiative to spread AI skills across the UK.
The RIF – relative to the size of each UK nation – will see £48.8 million go towards 110 universities across England and will be delivered by Research England.
A further £5.8 million for Scotland, £3.4 million for Wales and £2 million for Northern Ireland will be allocated to devolved administrations to support local and regional economies, in turn boosting growth and increasing productivity.
Separately, a review into sex and gender data will be launched to ensure researchers and public bodies can gather the information they need to effectively plan key services. As a funder of research and producer and user of statistics, the government relies on accurate information to inform research and effective policymaking in a wide range of fields, from health to crime, to education to the economy.
The review, supported by the Cabinet Office and Economic and Social Research Council, a part of UK Research and Innovation, will be led by Professor Alice Sullivan of University College London. Its terms of reference will be agreed in the coming weeks and is expected to conclude by spring of next year.
Eligible students can study a range of master’s courses across England which teach practical AI and data science skills, coding, programming, machine learning, health data science and AI ethics – preparing them for jobs of the future and boosting Britain’s ambition to become a world leader in AI safety.
Josh Boer, director at tech consultancy VeUP said, “With AI disrupting the marketplace and reshaping traditional job roles, it’s absolutely critical that the next generation are given every opportunity to gain access to qualifications in such an important technology.
“This funding will also be a huge boost for ambitious businesses, giving them access to a new wave of AI-equipped candidates to recruit and take their company forward.”
Derek Mackenzie, CEO at Investigo, a global skills provider, said, “With AI adoption surging on a global scale, getting access to candidates fully equipped with the latest AI capabilities has been a major challenge for businesses.
“The skills crisis has also left many companies struggling to build a robust talent pipeline, leaving them under resourced at such a crucial time. This scholarship programme will be a huge boost for students seeking to further their knowledge in key areas like data science, coding, and programming and give businesses a wider talent pool of new candidates to hire and develop in the future.”